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Colo. couple uses philanthropy to donate 20 AEDs to fire departments

Throughout the years, Lois and Arn Hart have given their time and money to the communities they live in

By Austin Fleskes
Loveland Reporter-Herald

LOVELAND, Colo. — Lois and Arn Hart have smiles and personalities that are as big as their actions and, as their name implies, hearts.

The longtime Colorado residents put their focus into philanthropy, and their most recent act of helping others comes in the form of donations to the McKee Wellness Foundation to provide the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority and Berthoud Fire Protection District with new AED units.

Recently, the Harts donated more than $14,000 to the foundation, which it used to order a total of 20 AEDs, 14 that went to the LFRA and six that went to the BFPD. Kara Pappas , executive director of the foundation, said this is part of the HeartSafe Community program, an initiative that, according to the foundation website, calls for “placing AEDs in public gathering places throughout the city of Loveland .”

“The great thing about the HeartSafe community is the collaborative effort that comes together to make it happen,” she said.

Pappas said that several months ago, LFRA Fire Chief Tim Sendelbach had approached her about the need for AEDs for the authority’s two Drake stations as well as in staff vehicles. She said she immediately thought of the Harts as potential donors.

The Harts, both originally from the East Coast and married for 55 years, have lived in Northern Colorado since the late 1970s.

While they moved around to Lyons , Boulder , Lafayette , Weld County and even up to Montana for a period of time — something they did so that Arn could have more chances to enjoy sailing on a nearby lake as he was dealing with prostate cancer — they found their way back to Northern Colorado in the mid 2010s. While the pair have lived in both Fort Collins and Loveland , they currently reside in Berthoud in what they say is their final home.

Throughout their lives the Harts have given their time and money to communities they live in, from starting a community foundation from scratch while living in Montana to donating money to various Northern Colorado nonprofits. The pair plan to use Arn’s disability money from his time serving in the Air Force during Vietnam to help others, with Arn Hart saying he was recently declared 100% disabled because of Agent Orange.

“We will have more money we can give for various projects here,” he said. “It is like winning the lottery when you are 99 years old.”

It was through this philanthropy that they came to know Pappas. Lois Hart said when Pappas came to them and asked if they would be interested in helping provide AEDs, they were on board, especially given the fact that Lois had dealt with her own heart concerns in the past. But, being Berthoud residents, Lois Hart said she wanted to make sure the foundation secured AEDs for both LFRA and the BFPD

The Harts’ donation funded eight of the 14 LFRA AEDs — Pappas said the other six were funded through the Rotary Club of Loveland and various other donations — as well as all six Berthoud AEDs.

“We realize now we are actually going to help save lives,” Lois Hart said. “With our population growing we need more of these defibrillators to be in all equipment.”

For the LFRA, the AEDs will primarily be used in staff vehicles. While two of the 14 have been placed at Stations 8 and 9 in Drake , the other 12 will be make it so all LFRA staff vehicles have the devices on hand.

The Harts were able to meet with the LFRA and see the 12 units at Station 1 on Wednesday.

“The objective is for anything that has LFRA’s logo on it (to be) equipped to take care of a medical emergency,” Sendelbach said. “If we are going to label vehicles, I want them to be able to intervene on an emergency and not pass on an emergency.”

Berthoud Fire Chief Stephen Charles said their six AED units will be added to the department’s wildland fire vehicles. He said these vehicles serve not only Berthoud but the general area and are even sometimes called further away to help in blazes, including last week when they were up in Wyoming helping put out a grass fire.

Making sure these units have AEDs on hand in the event of a medical emergency is important, Charles said.

“Structural firefighting is laborious, but wildland firefighting is laborious as well,” he said. “We want to make sure our wildland trucks and our battalion chief vehicles (have) the appropriate equipment on it in the event that (someone needed it).”

Pappas, Sendelbach and Charles all recognized the donation as an important piece of community safety.

Charles said not only does it make sure that Berthoud firefighters are prepared in the case of an emergency, it also means they can attain their mission of helping others without asking the taxpayers of Berthoud to give them more money, even describing the donation like a grant.

“I take it as a significant value because budgets are tight, times are a little difficult right now,” he said. “This is very, very beneficial to us. It is another benefit, another service we could provide.”

Sendelbach said this donation reflects the community and what it is all about. He also said it is important that the department reflects the training and effort it is putting toward making sure they are ready to respond and help people no matter what.

“It means a lot to me, because I want us to reflect what we are asking the community to reflect, and that is to be prepared,” he said. “Neighbor helping neighbor in the case of a medical emergency.”

“These LFRA staff vehicles are out and about in the community constantly,” Pappas said. “To know we have first responders who are equipped with the tools to do the job the minute a cardiac arrest occurs is so vitally important. Because that is who community members are going to look to.”

For the Harts, though, the giving is just what they do.

“It’s our mission,” Lois Hart said.

Arn Hart added that he sees their philanthropy like his time in the Air Force : working for something bigger than himself.

“If you get retired and just sit around you are not doing anybody any good,” he said. “So we have got our butts in gear.”

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