A retired teacher in Nenana combined her 80th birthday celebration with a fundraiser for the local volunteer fire department and emergency medical services and raised more than $11,000 for the organization.

Penny Forness launched the fundraiser after surviving a bout with Covid-19. She decided to put her post-Covid energy to good use and encouraged other seniors to do the same. At the outdoor event, she spearheaded a silent auction that included everything from quilts to handmade jewelry and artwork.

“There are some personal things I have and love but no longer need and I would rather see them go to a good cause, rather than go to the dump after I die,” she said.

She also showed off the birthday bouquets she received from Click Bishop and Jim Sampson.

The afternoon proved to be a happy gathering for the community and visitors. Kids enjoyed a bouncy house. There was live music and dancing in the street, games and a chance to drop the mayor in the dunk tank. Hamburgers and hot dogs were big sellers and the silent auction was very popular. A covered area with rocking chairs let seniors relax out of the hot sun.

Forness appealed to all her former students to participate. Many of them still live in the local area and showed up to support her and the fire department. They even posed for a group photo.

The Nenana Volunteer Fire Department is a non-profit organization and runs totally with the help of volunteers. The department covers an area from Mile 326 Parks Highway to Mile 292 Parks Highway and all the area off the highway, down to Old Minto on the Tanana River and upriver 10 or 15 miles. It also provides mutual aid to neighboring communities.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.