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Kelowna  

Fire Museum dream doused

 

After $27,000 in grants and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of fundraising money and countless volunteer hours the Kelowna Fire Museum will not open. 

The money is gone, the work has stopped and the building is for lease. Organizers say the lack of: volunteers and money, killed the dreams of those hoping to open the centre.

A large community team was working on opening the museum in the old Kelowna Motors, on the corner of Water Street and Leon Avenue, since owner Gary August gave them the keys to the building in July, 2009.

A slower than expected pace of renovations, specifically electrical upgrades, kept pushing back the timing of the museum's official opening.

Museum Executive Director, Brian Moore, says it took about 18 months to get the electrical issues sorted out.

"We lost 95 per cent of our 82 volunteers, so all the plans we had for them to have a position within the museum went away," says Moore.

"In the end we were ready to open, everything was done, but we just didn't have the volunteer base. We wanted to do it as 100 per cent non-profit so we had no staff at all, which I think is still a viable option."

He says that gap also affected fundraising.

"We have tons of support, but it was a Catch-22 where 'we'd love to support you but we need you to be open,' and we couldn't open without that support," says Moore.

The museum hasn't been able to pay rent on the building for months.

"Gary (August) was super understanding about things. He's the best landlord you could ever not pay."

The Fire Museum received several corporate, individual and government donations including $22,500 from the federal government and $5,000 from the city through the Central Okanagan Foundation.

The group was also fundraising with several events including photos with Santa and a 'Buy a rung' campaign, selling the opportunity to have an inscription placed on a rung of a ladder for $100. 

They were selling 200 rungs in total, the ladders were to be displayed in the museum.

It also received thousands and thousands of hours of volunteer time and 'sweat equity.'

"That's the most frustrating thing for me. We poured our heart and soul into that place to get it to a point where it was ready to roll, it was just very unfortunate."

A 'For Lease' sign has now gone up on the building.

While the sign is up, Moore says there is a 'faint hope' that if cash and volunteers suddenly pour in, the Fire Museum could still open and operate.

If not, Moore says donated artifacts and exhibits will be returned to their owners and the rest will be stored at the main fire hall on Enterprise Way.

In the meantime, Moore says it's time to take a step back and maybe, sometime down the road, look at taking another run at the project.

He says the number two fire hall next to the museum site needs to be relocated at some time and thinks that may be an ideal site if the city fathers would go along with the idea.

"It's just a very unfortunate set of circumstances in the end that blew it up."

 

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