Generous donations equip rescue volunteers for busy boating season

Three major donations from generous donors will help equip GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue volunteers with vital technical and safety equipment ahead of a predicted busy 2021 boating season.

New helmets, medical equipment bags, life jackets and crucial safety equipment, and a sophisticated infrared night vision imaging system have come from two private sector organizations and the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, volunteer leader Bob Gordon has announced.

The timing of the donations is important. The South Shore Search And Rescue volunteers have just come off a record-breaking year for marine rescues in 2020 and all indications point to another busy season this year.

The volunteers will have their first forward-looking infrared (FLIR) imaging system thanks to a major donation from the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary/Central & Arctic. The sophisticated camera and imaging system will help volunteers detect hard-to-see targets based on their heat signature. The system will be very useful locating people in the water at night, in bad weather or at times of restricted visibility. The new technology, which integrates with the navigation system used by crews, expands the efficiency of the searchers in critical situations.

The CCGA/C&A is the regional arm of the national Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary. The CCGA is the national umbrella organization for volunteer marine rescue units. It sets the standards for training, equipment and readiness, and is liaison to the Canadian Coast Guard. The CCGA also funds certain aspects of training and manages the federal government funds that pay units a per-hour fee while on approved rescue missions. The CCGA/C&A donation also provided funds for new helmets for volunteers and specialty medical equipment transport bags.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation of Canada stepped up with a grant for important equipment that will also go into service this year, Gordon said. At the top of the list is marine radio direction-finding technology that lets crews pinpoint vessels in distress based on their marine radio calls. The grant award, the second from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation of Canada, also included 15 new lifejackets for volunteers.

The grant had the support and encouragement of Niagara Falls and Grimsby Firehouse Subs franchise owner Vishal Patel.

Another South Shore Search And Rescue supporter, BCM (Bertie & Clinton Mutual) Insurance, has responded to the need for safety equipment for the volunteers with a grant that will pay for medical and SAR equipment including strobe lights, throw bags, oxygen transport bags, a scoop stretcher, blankets, and mask resuscitators.

BCM Insurance supported community safety in 2020 with the donation of life-saving cold-weather floater suits for the volunteers.

“Three absolutely vital donations, from three very different but very supportive organizations, will make an immediate and profound difference in how we help boaters this year and in years to come,” said Gordon. “It’s particularly gratifying that, in the midst of such a difficult year on land, that respected organizations like CCGA/C&A, Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation of Canada and BCM Insurance are still looking out for our communities on the water.”

About GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue

GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue responds to rescue calls in western Lake Ontario, serving the communities along the south shore from bases in Fifty Point and Grimsby. More than 30 active volunteers maintain fully-equipped rescue vessels and train year-round to hone the skills and readiness to be effective on the water. GAMRU is a member of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and a registered charity.

About the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary/Central & Arctic

The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Central & Arctic Region, CCGA/C&A, was incorporated in September 1978 under the sponsorship of the Federal Government, for the purpose of providing organized voluntary maritime search and rescue (SAR), and the promotion of safety afloat; in an Auxiliary support role to the Canadian Coast Guard. Over the past 40 years, the CCGA has evolved into an effective non-profit organization that saves lives nationwide.

The CCGA/C&A supports the Canadian Coast Guard with 926 volunteer members using 102 vessels. The volunteers of Central & Arctic provide approximately 123,671 hours of service per year.

About Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation

In 2005, the Firehouse Subs founders established Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation in the U.S. with the mission of providing funding, lifesaving equipment, and educational opportunities to first-responders and public safety organizations. Ten years later, with the opening of the first Canadian Firehouse Subs restaurant in 2015, the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation of Canada was born. Through the non-profit 501(c)(3), Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation of Canada has granted more than $1.5 million to hometown heroes in Canada.

About BCM Insurance

BCM (Bertie & Clinton Mutual) Insurance’s origins were born out of a need to serve our community. In 1880, Bertie and Willoughby Mutual was formed by a group of farmers who were unable to find fire insurance at a reasonable cost. They got together to form their own insurance company. In 1898, Clinton Mutual was formed under similar circumstances. These two companies operated independently until 1970 when they amalgamated to form the Bertie & Clinton Mutual Insurance Company. In 2018, their name was changed to BCM Insurance. As a mutual insurance company, they are community based, owned and operated by the policyholders. Their insurance coverage has grown to include a wide range of policies including farm, auto, residential and commercial insurance. In 2019, BCM launched their Community Grants Program with the goal to strengthen local non-profit organizations’ capacity to continue to do their great work in serving Niagara’s communities. Since the launch, more than $470,000 has been granted to non-profit organizations across the region.


Our 2019-2020 annual report is now available

The 2019-2020 GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue annual report to the community is now available here.

The report covers the activities of the unit for our fiscal year March 1, 2019 to February 28, 2020 (the 2019 boating season) and includes information on missions, training, fundraising and other activities. New this year is a financial report from an independent Chartered Professional Accountant.

A number of factors conspired to delay this report which is normally ready in the summer following our year-end. Despite the delay, we believe it continues to be valuable to the communities we serve.

Record Lake Ontario rescues as volunteers wrap up busy 2020 season

GRIMSBY, Ont. (Nov. 16, 2020) – A record-shattering 43 rescue missions in just over four months made the chaotic 2020 boating season the shortest and toughest for the volunteers of GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue.

“Although we had a late start to the season, we responded to 43 missions – a new record,” Unit Leader Bob Gordon told members this week. “This is the third time in four years our unit has broken an annual record for most rescue missions in one season.” The previous record was 38 missions; last year 29 rescues were recorded.

The 2020 season saw 24 lives saved, 27 people assisted and $188,000 in property recovered, Gordon told the volunteer membership in a season-end summary. The season started late with the first rescue mission logged on July 1 and concluded with the last call on October 30, 2020. The final call resulted in damage to the unit’s fast-response boat that took it out of service and ended the group’s season.

Calls ranged from help for disabled boats to a complex, multi-agency coordinated search for a missing vessel over vast areas of Lake Ontario. Overdue vessels, vessels aground, sinking and on fire, capsized boats and numerous instances of persons in the water or on inflatable devices made the season among the most challenging and diverse in terms of missions.

Members also found the time to deploy safety marker buoys to protect swimmers at two St. Catharines, Ont. beaches.

Like many other aspects of life in 2020, the efforts of the volunteers were made more complex by the protocols to protect the rescuers from COVID-19 with elaborate screening and personal protective gear for members and rigorous cleaning of facilities.

The group’s fundraising activities were also impacted by the pandemic, as many of the usual community and fundraising activities were cancelled – steps that will have implications for the volunteers’ finances next year.

Members have found a way to raise a little money as the season closes, however. The rescue volunteers will conduct an on-line auction of gift cards and certificates instead of the merchandise usually donated by generous businesses from the communities along the south shore of Lake Ontario.

Director of fundraising Denise Tulk admits this year’s auction will not generate anywhere near the $10,000-plus of previous years. “What we do on the water takes money. We know this auction won’t raise as much as past ones, but this isn’t a normal year,” Tulk says. “Working with the generous businesses in the community, we can all get through this together.”

The auction begins Nov. 16 and runs through Nov. 21, 2020, online at www.32auctions.com/GAMRU2020.

‘Win-Win’ charity auction boosts marine rescuers, supports businesses

GRIMSBY, Ont. (Nov. 2, 2020) –A charity auction that raises funds for marine rescue and helps boost local business represents a ‘Win-Win’ for the community, organizers say.

“This has been a bad year for everyone, including the local businesses that have supported us with donations in the past,” explains Denise Tulk, director of fundraising at GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue. “So we’re using our annual auction to help them generate a little extra business as we raise some much-needed money for our operations.”

The rescue volunteers will conduct an on-line auction of gift cards and certificates instead of the merchandise usually donated by generous businesses from the communities along the south shore of Lake Ontario.

“We know that bidders who win the gift cards and certificates go to the stores and businesses to redeem them and often end up shopping for things that may exceed the value of the cards,” explains Tulk. “They also see things they hadn’t considered and buy those, too. A $25 gift card donation by a store can generate two- or three-times that in business.”

The auction begins Nov. 16 and runs through Nov. 21, 2020, online at www.32auctions.com/GAMRU2020.

The volunteers’ traditional November auction is the group’s largest fundraising activity of the year and usually generates donations of goods, from auto parts to appliances, as well as gift cards and certificates for restaurants, spas, and local attractions and services. The move to purely gift cards and certificates recognizes that many local businesses can’t be as generous as they have in the past, Tulk says.

“We think this auction can drive traffic and business to local merchants at a time when they may need it,” she says. The cards and certificates will be mailed to the winning bidders.

Tulk admits this year’s auction will not generate anywhere near the $10,000-plus of previous years. “What we do on the water takes money. We know this auction won’t raise as much as past ones, but this isn’t a normal year,” Tulk adds. “Working with the generous businesses in the community, we can all get through this together.”

GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue responds to rescue calls in western Lake Ontario, serving the communities along the south shore from bases in Fifty Point and Grimsby. More than 30 active volunteers maintain the two fully-equipped rescue vessels and train year-round to maintain the skills and readiness to be effective on the water. GAMRU is a member of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and a registered charity. 


New custom rescue boat coming for South Shore volunteers

GRIMSBY, Ont. (April 24, 2020) – An ambitious plan to buy a new, purpose-built rescue vessel has paid off for the volunteers of GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue.

A new Stanley 26 CR S&R boat customized to the needs of the volunteers was ordered this week from Stanley Aluminium Boats of Parry Sound, Ontario. The new vessel is expected to enter service for the 2021 boating season, the leader of the volunteer group announced.

“This is the culmination of several years of fund raising and the end of a long, arduous selection process,” Unit Leader Bob Gordon told donors to the three-year campaign. “This is a great moment for our organization.”

The 26-foot, centre console boat will feature a full suite of modern navigation and communication equipment and be powered by a pair of Honda BF225 outboard engines. When fully in service, the boat is expected to have a top speed in excess of 40 knots and a cruising range of more than 220 nautical miles.

“We believe the design offers the speed, range and seaworthy characteristics we demand in a rescue boat combined with the deck space, equipment storage and crew safety we need,” said Gordon. Among the safety innovations for the volunteer crew is the use of shock-absorbing seats.

The boat could have a working life of 20 years, Gordon added.

Final price for the vessel and its equipment is expected to be within the $240,000 the volunteers raised for the project.

Funds were raised from business, institutional and private donors over a three-year period. Contributors from the institutional sector included the highly respected Wise Guys Charity Fund and the Niagara Community Foundation, while local businesses like NRB Inc., Fabris Inc. and Stonehouse-Whitcomb Funeral Home were major contributors. Grimsby native and marine industry pioneer Blair McKeil, founder of McKeil Marine, was instrumental in the fund raising, Gordon said. Individuals from the community and South Shore Search And Rescue members also contributed to the fund.

Gordon expressed the volunteers’ heart-felt thanks to the donors who brought the project to life. “It was important to share this news with the many generous donors who supported this effort from the earliest days and through the long periods when it appeared we weren’t making much progress,” Gordon told the donors. “Your encouragement and financial support during this time was invaluable. To you, our sincere thanks.”

The selection process looked at nearly two dozen boats from Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand before settling on the Stanley. The new boat will replace the aging Zodiac Hurricane 630, which will see another year of service in 2020 alongside the volunteers’ 34-foot steel cutter once the 2020 season begins.

GAMRU South Shore Search And Rescue responds to rescue calls in western Lake Ontario, serving the communities along the south shore from bases in Fifty Point and Grimsby. More than 30 active volunteers maintain the two fully-equipped rescue vessels and train year-round to maintain the skills and readiness to be effective on the water. GAMRU is a member of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and a registered charity.

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