Pete Beblavy, assistant fire chief at Aquashicola Volunteer Fire Company, welcomed people to its annual Christmas party at the Blue Ridge Country Club on Dec. 2.

"It is a way to say thank you to those who support our department. It's a small token of our appreciation," he said.

A moment of silence was requested for those who "left us" this past year before Louise Koons gave the blessing.

Beblavy mentioned those who were especially helpful: First was Lumpy Koons, the company's photographer, who prepared a slide show.

The Lower Towamensing Township supervisors were thanked for continued support. They are Ron Walbert, Jesse Mendez and Brent Green. It is excellent working alongside you, Beblavy said. Walbert replied with a thank you to the company for keeping the community safe.

Don Reinhard has helped the company through his work with the Horsehead Community Development Fund.

In 2011 the company received a $65,000 grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development. It replaced a boiler, the emergency generator and other electronics, the engine room roof, and installed a diesel exhaust filtration system. Harry and Jeff Shupp helped complete the project with their carpentry skills.

Earl Paules, Todd Shupp, Braun Bleamer, Kerry Paules and, from the company, Bill George, Chris Jahelka and Rory Koons consistently supported the department with time, talents, resources, expertise and materials making projects much easier.

He said the women were not overlooked. Brenda Borger, Kathy Jahelka, Kathy Fronheiser, Louise Koons, Doris Thamarus, Jane George and Nicole Jahelka help in the kitchen, with the fund drive and with the newsletter along with other activities.

Beblavy said he worked for years to get a FEMA grant and this year the company is in line for a $22,000 grant to replace air cylinders.

Horsehead Community Development Fund provided funding to change hoses and appliances to meet National Standard Threads so they are interchangeable with other companies. Bernie Shea represented the Fund.

AVFC contributed to the Veterans Memorial in the park. Beblavy said the dedication was wonderful, the weather cooperated and it was followed by a successful parade. Ed Moyer, president of the memorial committee," thanked the company for having them at the banquet and for helping direct the parade."

Carbon County commissioners and 911 director Gary Williams were thanked for the new radios and pagers.

An AVFC member came upon hard times and the company stepped up and helped. It made Beblavy proud to be a member as did the manner in which they helped following Sandy's visit. Donations can be made until Dec. 10 to the company or left at Northern Bank to be taken to Union City Police Department, N.J., for distribution.

The Chief Warren Furry Firefighter of the Year Award went to Jon Kistler. Furry was instrumental in forming the company and was chief for 25 years. Kistler said, "I'm truly grateful for being involved and knowing what a volunteer fire company is all about."

The Chief Warren Furry Memorial Scholarship went to Steven Semmel who is attending Gettysburg College majoring in history and computer science. He was active in football and track during high school and is an Eagle Scout. He began his association with the fire company as a junior firefighter. His parents are Mark and Paula Semmel.

John McArdle, fire chief of Nesquehoning Hose Co. No. 1 for 21 years, is also an EMT, deputy state police fire marshal, president of the county Fireman's Association and chairman of the fire chief's association in addition to being a merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts of America.

McArdle said firefighting began with Benjamin Franklin who also developed bifocals, drafted the Declaration of Independence, and began the volunteer Union Hook and Ladder fire department in 1736. It put out fires, protected people's goods and protected against looters.

People who volunteer are dedicated to making a difference. They work in fire prevention programs. Companies have to start getting young people involved because volunteer numbers are declining.

The firefighter makes sacrifices and their family suffers. Dinner has to be kept warm. He said he has been fortunate with a supportive family. Kovatch Co. lets people leave to fight fires.

Out of 31 active firefighters in Nesquehoning, 26 have been certified and many have continued to earn higher levels of certification.

Fire companies have been turning to government officials for monetary incentive. Citizens should not take firefighters for granted.

"Thank you for your commitment and return home safe. Merry Christmas," he concluded.

Beblavy said, "You are well respected for everything you do. We know Nesquehoning is one of the best around."

The program closed with an artist doing a slap-dash painting job on a large screen which turned out to be a flag, with a New York fireman holding a rescued child. He would jump to slap paint on top of the screen and turn it and be painting on the bottom. At first it looked like nothing until the flag began to appear, and then the fireman filled the center. After he was painted the child appeared.