A retired Nenana teacher and longtime resident is spearheading a fundraiser for the Nenana Volunteer Fire Department and emergency services. It’s a combination fundraiser, reunion for old friends, birthday celebration for the organizer, and summer get-together.

The in-person outdoor event begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 19, on A Street in downtown Nenana, but some of the fundraising has already begun online.

“I’m appealing to my former students,” said Penny Forness. “If you have fond memories of your high school days in Nenana and fond memories of Mrs. Forness, let’s unite for a worthy cause.”

That cause is a fundraiser for the Nenana Volunteer Fire Department and emergency medical services, and will include a reunion of old friends and students on that same day.

“This will be like the old carnivals we used to have in Nenana,” she said.

The retired teacher said she took inspiration from Mary Siah and Margaret Sanders, both well known volunteers in the Interior.

“Those ladies were both in their 80s and they did good things,” Forness said. “I just turned 80.”

She pointed out that Mary Siah started the senior housing complex Golden Towers in Fairbanks and a parks and recreation facility, with a swimming pool, is named in her honor. Margaret Sanders “was the senior center person for a long time,” Forness said.

Forness has a special connection to the local fire department. Her son Joe Forness is the chief. The volunteer department is a non-profit agency now and in constant search of funding to continue operating.

“We are grateful to businesses who send money,” Penny Forness said. “But we need help from people we know and love.”

She rattled off a long list of needs for the fire department, everything from new bunker gear, to oxygen and insurance.

Forness got the ball rolling online, encouraging seniors in the community to donate items for bid, to raise funds for the department.

“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 when I die,” she said.

Those items include an old Oliver tractor valued at about $1,800 and a barber chair that is more than 100 years old.

“I hope somebody else thinks it’s cool too,” she added. “It’s not really garage sale stuff, it’s a little different.”

“I’m asking seniors in Nenana to find one thing they don’t want to go to the dump and let’s put it in a silent auction,” she said.

This whole project is the result of Forness contracting COVID-19 earlier this year, which results in her being hospitalized. The medication she took made her nostalgic and emotional, she said.

She decided to use that energy to make something good happen and this fundraiser is the result.

There are hints of a return of the dunk tank, as well as a bouncy house for kids. There will also be food, games, music and lots of stories to share. Participate in the silent auction, the rockathon, balloon toss and cake walk.

“We appeal to anyone who has a tie to Nenana,” she said.

Donations can also be sent to Nenana Fire/EMS, P.O. Box 88, Nenana, AK 99760.

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