Police, Firefighters Give Dugouts a Lift
With assistance from firefighter Matt Moore at left, Capt. Andy White of the Lebanon Fire Department trims strapping on the roof of a dugout under construction at Elks Field in Lebanon yesterday. At center is firefighter Eric James, left, and Lebanon Patrol Officer Daniel Gaspard. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Eric James, left, and Andy White of the Lebanon Fire Department help sports coordinator Rick Desharnais of Lebanon Parks and Recreation, center, nail strapping to the roof of a dugout under construction at Elks Field in Lebanon yesterday. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Lebanon policemen and firefighters are accustomed to serving the community in various ways. For a recent project, that included opening their wallets — and spending their free time.
In a partnership with the city’s department of recreation and parks, Lebanon’s police and fire department unions donated financial resources and plenty of man-hours to help erect two wooden dugouts at Elks Field.
After receiving $1,400 in donations for materials from the Lebanon Police Benevolent Association and the Lebanon Permanent Firefighters Association ($700 each), members of the forces have helped construct the 18-by-20-foot, 9-foot-high structures.
A pair of volunteer work days over the last couple weeks has the project near completion. Lebanon recreation department sports coordinator Rick Desharnais hopes they’ll be finished in time for the Lebanon High softball team’s home opener tomorrow afternoon against Souhegan.
“As far as I know, there haven’t been dugouts here since it was built (in the mid 1980s),” Desharnais said. “There were just concrete pads with wooden benches and a fence around them.
“I couldn’t help but notice that it could use some dugouts, but our budget wouldn’t be able to support it. That’s where (the police and fire department unions) have stepped in and really helped us out.”
Police officer Dan Gaspard said it was a chance encounter with Desharnais while driving past the field that led to the conversation spurring the project. Gaspard’s union later voted to allocate $700 for materials, a figure the fire department union agreed to match.
“We do fundraising to give to charities, such as Toys for Tots, and in the last few years we’ve been focusing on giving back to the Lebanon community,” Gaspard said. “Most of our donations come from people in Lebanon, and we think of it as a good way to give back.”
Yet contributing to the purchase of the 100 2-by-4 boards, 30 2-by-6s and 20 sheets of plywood wasn’t enough. There was still the issue of building the structures, which is where the fire department has stepped in doubly. Union president Bill James, captain Andy White and others from LFD have been on hand for 5-to-7 hour workdays twice over the last two weeks, helping facilitate the more than 100 total man hours necessary for the dugouts. With many volunteering during scheduled off-days, firefighters have helped saw, nail and fasten the boards under Desharnais’ instruction.
“A lot of the guys from the department have construction experience, whether it’s from work on their own houses or professionally,” James said. “The first work day (April 1), we had about 12 guys out here and it was a lot of fun. We had the grill out, made some burgers and hot dogs. It’s been a cool thing to be a part of.”
Yesterday, White and James led an effort to fasten boards for the roofs of the dugouts, one of the final steps before their completion.
The Raiders’ softball team has eight scheduled home games at Elks Field this year. The field, which has hosted youth baseball in the past, is also home to the Lebanon adult softball league.
Desharnais, now in his third year as the Lebanon recreation department’s sports coordinator, said the police and fire departments have been “great partners” since he began working for the city.
“This is the first time we’ve done a project like this, but they’ve done a lot of other things,” he said. “A lot of them run in the Shamrock Shuffle (St. Patrick’s Day 5K road race) to benefit our scholarship fund, and both have donated to our youth football program.”
White was enthusiastic while helping construct the roof of the visitors-side dugout yesterday. “A lot of us like doing this kind of stuff, whether it’s something like repairing steps or building a handicapped ramp, something like that, for people who don’t have the resources to take care of it themselves,” he said.
Additional funding for the project was provided by the recreation department’s park development fund, monies accumulated through donations. The total cost of materials was $2,400, Desharnais said.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.