LAKE SHORE - Ski Gull's chair lift is getting a new variable speed motor that will improve conditions for skiers but the nonprofit organization needs the public's help to pay for half.
Ski Gull received a $50,000 donation from Al and Mary Agnes McQuinn of Naples, Fla., and Gull Lake seasonal residents since 1973, to help pay for the new motor. However, the McQuinns have a string attached to their gift: Ski Gull must raise another $50,000 to match their donation, otherwise the donation will be converted into a loan. The new motor will cost about $107,000.
"I hope others chip in so I lose $50,000," Al McQuinn said in a telephone interview Monday. "I'm doing this challenge to stimulate others to join in.
Todd Lecklider of Ski Lift Services in Dayton, Ohio, worked Monday on preparing the ski lift at Ski Gull for the installation of a new variable speed motor. Updyke Systems Enterprises in Pennsylvania will install the control box for the motor. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Ski Gull is an important contributor to this community. I am very impressed with what Ski Gull has tried to do. They teach sixth-graders how to ski, but what impresses me the most is their dedication to people with special needs. They try to keep prices affordable and they try to help the children who can't afford it."
McQuinn said for the past three years his family has financially supported Ski Gull. He said his children and grandchildren have spent many holidays at Ski Gull. McQuinn said Ski Gull has struggled with debt and the ability to improve its facilities and equipment.
Laurie Fitterer, Ski Gull board member, said the nonprofit organization is at the mercy of the community, since it relies on its ticket sales for revenue. Fitterer said currently the chair lift has to stop to give children with special needs or beginning skiers time to get on the lift. This means Ski Gull needs additional operators and there is more wear and tear to the ski lift itself, said Fitterer.
Fitterer said the variable speed motor will automatically slow down when needed, as well as speed up.
Kari Dayton, Ski Gull executive director, said the new motor will reduce overall repair and maintenance costs, provide safety improvements, reduce electrical bills and expand possibilities for summer venues that are fitness-related and meet the organization's current mission. Its mission is to provide challenging activities in a fun and healthy environment, which empowers youth to develop confidence, competency and compassion.
Dayton said Ski Gull pays about $5,500 a month in electricity during the winter to operate the ski lift and snow maker, or about $28,000 a year. Dayton said about 70 percent of the operating costs are funded through ticket sales, concession stand sales and other fees and the remaining 30 percent of operating costs are covered by Ski Gull fundraisers.
Dayton said it costs Ski Gull about $2,000 a day to operate.
Dayton said Ski Gull has about 150 volunteers who help with programs. Ski Gull has a sixth-grade program where it has taught 20,000 children from 15 area schools to ski in the past 20 years. Ski Gull also has a learn to ski or tube program for children and adults with special needs.
Ski Gull's annual banquet, which kicked off its fundraising efforts for the new variable speed motor, was Thursday in Baxter. Dayton said there was a record number of people who attended and helped to raise more money than the previous year.
Fitterer said Ski Gull is not planning any other specific fundraising events at this time, but is asking individuals and businesses to make a contribution to Ski Gull. People wanting to make a tax-deductible donation may do so by dropping off money in an account at one of the Lakewood Banks in the Brainerd lakes area or by sending a check to Ski Gull at P.O. Box 612, Nisswa, MN 56468.
Dayton said Ski Gull has eliminated much of its debt and Ski Gull board members hope they don't have to add any more loans. Dayton said Ski Gull hopes to raise the $50,000 by the end of the year.
Dayton said this variable speed motor has been on the wish list of its board since 1999. The current board consists of Dayton, Fitterer, John Hillstrom, Larry Miller, Charles McQuinn, D.J. Dondelinger, Ellen Frank and Mike Burton is the board mentor.
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