Jason Behler, president of West End Fire Company No. 2, Palmerton, welcomed everyone who attended the annual Christmas party held at The Terrace. He said a few had not made it because of the snow on Saturday night.

Joann Kercshmar gave the prayer asking that God help "keep our firefighters safe."

After dinner there was a loud "Ho, ho, ho Merry Christmas," and Santa Claus was greeted happily. He handed out presents to the younger children.

Behler said it was a good year for the fire company with no injuries. Chris Olivia, safety officer for Palmerton, was present. Behler said people could complain to him about safety issues.

"We are focused tonight on thanking people who helped," said Behler.

Michael Ozales provides legal help and received a plaque.

There are four groups who do cleanup around the firehouse. Group 2 did 50 of the 70 things on a list that should be done each year. Each member of the group received a $25 gift card good at the Gulf station in Palmerton.

Rob Sell, the financial secretary, who will no longer be serving in that position, was thanked "for all his years." He received a piece of metal that fell off a truck during an accident when he was driving.

Behler acknowledged a lot of people who helped the organization, some of them for more than 20 years: Tony Harry, 25 years; Bernie Edwards, 28; Larry Zawaly 33; Walter Hass Sr., 30; Keith Cebrosky, 41; Dennis Behler, 39; Barry Scherer, 43; and Chief Joe Kercsmar, 40 years. The all received plaques.

Kyle Behler, Jason's brother, earned an Eagle Scout award for, with the help of others, placing a sign at the fire company and "applying scouting ideals to the West End Fire Company." He received a plaque from the fire company.

Michelle Behler is in her fourth year as president of the ladies auxiliary. She presented a check to Chief Joe Kercsmar for $1,000 earned through fundraisers. A total of $19,000 had been presented over the four years.

Two members of the auxiliary were recognized for outstanding effort. They were Judy Henry and Joann Kercsmar who were each named "valued member of the year."

Jason Behler said the company could not complete its projects without the auxiliary's help. Michelle presented plaques to all active auxiliary members: Michelle Behler, president; Joann Kercsmar, vice president; Angela Shelly, treasurer; Tina Reph, secretary; Judy Henry, Amy Allen and JoAnn Quinn.

The company received a grant that paid for putting automatic defibrillators in each truck and in the firehall. It will make the final payment on a loan and buy extra gear for those who don't have the newest and safest equipment.

Behler said he did not like the term firefighter of the year. He referred to Nick Lucia who had been with the company since 1943 until his death. For Lucia the fire company always came first, Behler said. In place of the firefighter award, West End will present the Nick Lucia Memorial Award, which, this year, went to Michael Kercsmar who responded to 46 of 67 calls in the past year.

It is to be an annual award based on outstanding performance.

The fire company would not be what it is without all of you, said Behler.

Kercsmar thanked the officers, firefighters and auxiliary. Special thanks went to the wives who are left alone when their men are at the firehouse or responding to a call. He said next year will be interesting with the consolidation (with Palmerton).

There was a wrapped gift for each person attending.