Rush Township kicked off its yearlong Bicentennial celebration by honoring those who serve its residents.

The township's board of supervisors held a luncheon at the Rush Municipal Building on Mahanoy Avenue (Route 54) in Hometown Saturday, with 80 in attendance, including U.S. Congressman Timothy Holden (D-17) and Schuylkill County District Attorney James Goodman.

Rush Township was established in 1811, from land originally part of Northampton County, and is one of the original nine townships of Schuylkill County, which is also celebrating its 200th anniversary this year.

The township is named after Judge Jacob Rush, who served as the first president judge of the Third Judicial District when Schuylkill was still part of Northampton County. Jacob was the younger brother of Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Over the years, Mahanoy, East Union, Ryan, Kline and Delano Townships were formed in part or whole from sections of Rush.

Stephen W. Simchak, supervisors' chairman, welcomed those in attendance on behalf of fellow board members Shawn Gilbert, vice president, and Robert Leibensperger.

"This is our first Bicentennial event of the year and its goal is to honor all of our local heroes," said Simchak.

"A special thank you goes out to our veterans for their sacrifices throughout the years at home and abroad. Our local firefighters and fire police from the Hometown Fire Company and Quakake Volunteer Fire Company stand ready day and night to protect the public."

Earlier in the week, Hometown Fire Company Chief Barry Messerschmidt was honored during the board's reorganization meeting as "Volunteer for the Year for 2011" for his efforts with the fire company, Boy Scouts, recreation board and in the developmental plans for Quakake and Miller Parks.

"Barry does whatever it takes to make the community a better place for all its residents," reiterated Simchak.

The board also acknowledged local businesses who donated their services and financial support to the township, as well as the township's employees in its administrative, police and road departments for "their dedication and team spirit."

Holden presented Simchak and the board with a Congressional citation in honor of the township's Bicentennial.

"I know how fortunate we are to live in places like Rush Township and my hometown of St. Clair," said Holden. "Everybody knows and helps everybody else."

Holden mentioned that it is that small town friendliness that can be missing in places such as the nation's capital.

Walking to work in D.C., "if you say hello, people look at you like you are going to mug them," said Holden.

The Rev. Fred Crawford presented the invocation, in which he lauded the efforts of the volunteers with emergency services and asked for God's blessing for those who serve their community by risking their well-being to help those in need.

"I think this is a good event," said resident Joe Bnosky. "There are a lot of people here who I haven't seen before. They should all come out to the (township) meetings, too."

"This is great for the community," said another resident, Jack Starry. "I'm glad to see people who were interested come out for this today. I'd like to know more about what they have planned for the rest of the year, but I guess we'll find out."

Harry Eisley lives near Ryan Park in Hometown, which the township is in the process of renovating as a recreation and trail area. "I think this is very nice, and they are doing a good job moving things forward," he said.

Simchak said the luncheon would be the first of many Bicentennial activities planned for throughout the year.