Nearly 200 volunteer firefighters, ambulance personnel, municipal officials, Kidder Township residents and their families turned out for the third annual Kidder Township Emergency Services Banquet earlier this month. The event is held to praise and reward the hard working men and women who volunteer to keep the citizens of the township safe.
At this year's event, exemplary volunteers from Albrightsville Fire Company, Kidder Fire Company, Lake Harmony Fire Company and Lake Harmony Rescue Squad were recognized for their efforts. Joseph McAleer, a retired captain from the Philadelphia Fire Department served as master of ceremonies.
Reverend Monisgnor John G. Chizmar of St. Peter the Fisherman Church blessed the dinner, served by the Mountain Laurel Resort & Spa. The evening's keynote speaker was Dr. William F. Jenaway, executive vice president of VFIS, the largest insurer of emergency service organizations in the US. Jenaway is also chair of the Fire and Rescue Services Board for Upper Merion Township.
As Chief of the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company he was named "Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year" by Fire Chief magazine in 2001 and the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company became the first Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services agency to become accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.
"When it comes to public safety financing, there are some real challenges out there," Jenaway said. "One thing I hear everywhere I go is how are we going to pay for things as we get into the next decade? It's going to be a significant challenge."
Jenaway said that the biggest issue volunteer emergency services companies face is dealing with expectations. He talked about parts of the country where growth was bringing in new residents from urban areas where emergency services are paid for by the government.
"They have a different expectation of the cost system," he said. "And this is a significant conflict."
He encouraged the professionals in the audience to open up lines of communication and get the talking started.
"Get everyone to the bargaining table and approach it like adult men and women and I'm sure solutions can be worked out," he said. "But the expectations have to be defined. What does the public expect as a level of service and are they capable of paying for that level of service."
Jenaway congratulated in advance everyone who would be receiving an award and turned over the podium so that the presentations could begin.
The Lake Harmony Rescue Squad and Ambulance Corp. Inc. was the first company to take the podium. Directory of operations Jason Steranko and vice president Charlotte Blackwell presented the awards. Robert Kramer, 2009 assistant chief, Alex Kalista, Dan Marotta and Gene Getz were all presented with awards of appreciation. It was noted that Getz had served for 25 years and held, at some point, virtually every position in the company. Stephanie Maino and Jason Steranko both won Life Saver awards for saving a life within the past 12 months.
Richard Smallenburg presented the awards for the Albrightsville Volunteer Fire Company. He made four presentations. Jeff Piccirillo won the Outstanding Leadership award. George Henning was awarded an Achievement award. Bruce Berger was the company's Emergency Services Person of the Year. And for her many years of service to the company, Mary Ellen Arndt was given the President's award.
Fire Chief Ralph Lennon, who was instrumental in putting the banquet together, recognized all of his full-time volunteers and his juniors. "No matter what your job is, all of the jobs are important," Lennon said. "Without each individual one coming together the unit won't operate as well as it could."
Lennon recognized four individuals who he said had save his fire company tens of thousands of dollars as it worked on is new building. Louis Montanaro, Marvyn Raphaelson, Frank Giovannone and Tom Tumminello were all given a plaque and a round of applause from a very appreciative fire company.
Kidder Township Volunteer Fire Company Fire Chief David Troell recognized the members of his company during his time at the podium. Kevin Blair was given the Appreciation Award for this outstanding dedication.
Finally, the four finalists for the Kidder Township Emergency Services Person of the Year award were called to the podium. Larry Polansky, chairman of the Kidder Township Board of Supervisors announced the award finalists.
"On behalf of the township board of supervisors, I want to thank all of you," Polansky said. "Thank you for coming to honor those who provide emergency services to all of us."
The four finalists for the night's biggest award were:
Ÿ Bruce Berger, Fire Chief of the Albrightsville Volunteer Fire Company
Ÿ Ralph Lennon, Fire Chief of the Lake Harmony Volunteer Fire Company
Ÿ Jason Steranko, Dir. Of Operations, Lake Harmony Rescue Squad
Ÿ David Troell, Fire Chief of the Kidder Township Volunteer Fire Company
The Kidder Township Emergency Services Person of the Year was awarded to Lennon, who started out in the fire company 50 years ago with the Marion Hose Company in Jim Thorpe. After relocating to take a teaching position, he joined the Glenside Fire Company in Philadelphia, where he served for over 30 years and eventually became chief. After retiring from the school system in 1997, he moved to Lake Harmony and joined the fire company here. He became Fire Chief in 2005.