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Bar donates pull-tab earnings to Wadena FD

Wadena firefighters accept a $2,400 gift from Whiskey Creek Saloon Friday in front of the bar. Whiskey Creek donated proceeds from the last three months of pull-tab sales. The money will go to buy fire department equipment.

At least those gambling losses weren't in vain.

Most of the profits from three months of pull-tab sales at Whiskey Creek Saloon will go toward equipment for the Wadena Fire Department. On Friday at the bar, owners Matt and Lindsey Wedde presented the department with a check for $2,400.

Matt Wedde, a former volunteer firefighter in New York Mills, said he understands how difficult it is for small departments to pay for upgrades.

"I know it's always a battle to find money to buy equipment," he said, "so we wanted to help them out."

Wadena Fire Chief Dean Uselman said a department committee will decide how to spend the funds, whether it be on new hoses or improved communications.

"We have huge equipment needs," he said. "This is definitely going to go toward equipment purchases that haven't been funded by the city ... We're pretty excited about it. It's awful nice. It's very generous."

Uselman noted that with stable profits throughout the year, pull-tab sales could yield nearly $10,000 for the department - or about 10 percent of its annual budget.

"That's a lot of money," he said.

In March, the bar began selling pull-tabs through Community Charities of Minnesota, a Mankato-based non-profit that annually distributes about a half million dollars of charitable gambling proceeds from 40 locations throughout the state, said Mark Healy, the organization's gambling manager. Wadena Lanes also sells pull-tabs through Community Charities, with profits going toward youth bowling.

Healy said at least 85 percent of the pull-tab revenue is distributed in the communities in which it is generated - to schools, athletics, scholarships, churches, cancer research, the Minnesota Deer Hunter's Association, etc.

"It's just such a wide range of things," Healy said.

The Weddes plan to continue to donate to the fire department, but they said they'll consider sending money to other causes, too.

"There's tons of options," Matt Wedde said. "As long as it goes to a nonprofit, we can do whatever we want with it."