Some fire companies really know how to boost the morale of their volunteer firefighters.
Those who attended the Aquashicola Volunteer Fire Company's annual Christmas Party held recently at Blue Ridge Country Club in Palmerton would surely attest to that.
Peter Beblavy, assistant fire chief/vice president of the fire company, addressed the audience. Beblavy noted that fire company president Rory Koons was unable to attend.
"Tonight's celebration is a way for us to say thank you to those who provide continuing support and put forth the efforts necessary to keep our department strong, prosperous, and respected," Beblavy said.
A moment of silence was then held to remember Jeff Bartholomew, Norman Dotter, Maude Kistler, Davey Jones, Shirley Stahler, Earl Costenbader, Wilmer Everett, Tommie Ziegenfus and former Lehighton Fire Chief John Kuller, all of whom Beblavy said were friends of the fire department who are truly missed.
Louise Koons then gave the blessing, and dinner followed.
Once the program resumed, Beblavy thanked Lumpy Koons, who provided the photos for the slide show.
Beblavy then introduced several special guests, along with the organizations they represented.
Among those recognized were: Bob Kuba, Horsehead Community Development Fund; Kerry Waibel, AMPAL; Ed Moyer, Joe Uhnak, and Victor Jahelka, Palmerton United Veteran's Organization; and Ron Walbert, Lower Towamensing Township Board of Supervisors.
Beblavy then recounted the fire company's year in review.
He said the year began with the complete renovation of its social hall. While many hours were put into the project by its volunteers, Beblavy said the majority of the work was performed by Harry and Jeff Shupp.
Also as part of the hall renovations, Beblavy said the fire company wished to thank John Fisher, who installed the roll-up door at the kitchen pass through counter; Braun Bleamer, who created the company logo on the south wall; and Jason Amorim, who established its wireless Internet connection in the hall.
In addition, Beblavy thanked Kerry Paules, Todd Shupp, Earl Paules, and fire Chief Bill George and George's Plumbing & Heating for their constant support of materials, services, donations, talents and expertise.
From a financial perspective, Beblavy noted that the fire company received a Department of Community & Economic Development Grant for building renovations. The project was started with the assistance of former House Speaker Keith McCall, and has been continued with the assistance of state Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon).
Beblavy said the grant will provide funding for a new boiler; roof repairs over the engine room; a diesel exhaust removal system; and the installation of a new emergency generator. The generator is being donated by Pencor Services, he noted. Work has already started, and should be completed by next spring, Beblavy said.
The fire company also received funds from the Horsehead Community Development Fund for new gear racks which Beblavy said have just recently arrived and will soon be installed.
With the success of its annual fish fry, fund drive and filling sale, the fire company will be able to purchase 225 new chairs and storage racks for its hall, Beblavy said.
Another project he said the fire company is proud of is the countless hours put into the development and revision of its Standard Operating Procedures - Standard Operating Guidelines. Beblavy said Rory Koons and Chris Jahelka worked especially hard on the project.
Each firefighter was then given a disk, along with training power points, which Beblavy said will help educate and provide vital information on procedures and guidelines. Many years of experience, knowledge, and numerous responses have all played a role in the development of the guidelines, he said.
From there, Beblavy recognized Jeffrey Hausman as the recipient of the Chief Warren E. Furry Firefighter of the Year.
Beblavy said Hausman is "one of the hardest workers we have."
"He's got a stack of certificates, and he's earned everyone of them," he said. "He's one of the best firefighters I've ever been around."
Chief Furry was very instrumental in the 1950s with the organization and development of the fire department. He served 25 years as chief, and retired to become a township supervisor until his untimely death.
Beblavy then recognized several members of the fire company's junior program.
He said Brent Green received the Warren E. Furry memorial scholarship offered by Mike Snyder, a former member and current chief of the Auburn-Williams Volunteer Fire Department in Michigan.
Beblavy said Green was also recently elected as a township supervisor, and was awarded the highest honor in Scouting when he was presented with his Eagle Scout award.
Other junior program members recognized by Beblavy were Steven Semmel, a senior at Palmerton Area High School who will soon attain his Eagle Scout award and will be in the top running for the Warren E. Furry Memorial Scholarship.
Beblavy also noted that Earl Paules, of Paules Metal Works, as well as Cindy Gasper and All Trade Construction, eah provided the fire company with a $1,000 donation. He then thanked Paules and Gasper for their contributions.
Uhnak and Jahelka then gave an update on the veterans memorial scheduled to be erected in the borough park by the Palmerton United Veteran's Organization.
As of that point in time, Uhnak said about $93,000 out of the necessary $130,000 has been collected for the veteran's memorial.
At that, Larry Arner, a member of the fire department's board of trustees, said the department was proud to present the PUVO with a donation in the amount of $2,500 that came from the sale of its two most recent can trailer redemptions.
George, Nicole Jahelka, and Marie Hahn then discussed the filling sale and Tech Net Comedy Night. It was noted the fire company made over $1,000 from the filling sale.
Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein served as guest speaker, and lauded the fire company for its annual event.
"I can't think of a better way than a dinner like this for the businesses, townships and boroughs that support our volunteers," Nothstein said. "It's a real pleasure that some of these municipalities show their thanks to their volunteers."
As part of his speech, Nothstein spoke about his efforts to bring an emergency services training facility to Carbon County, as well as the challenges that the volunteer fire service faces both locally, as well as statewide.
"We know it's going to take a long time," he said. "We're planning it; we know we'll have to do it in phases."
Nothstein then congratulated Hausman on his award, as well as the community and local businesses in attendance.
Beblavy then shared a quote with the audience given to him from Rory Koons.
"To the fire fighters, I ask you to take a few moments to relrect on the importance of your job every time the tones or siren sounds," Koons said. "This short video clip is a reminder that your job is extremely dangerous, and one that demands both mental and physical strength and preparedness. Not only do your fellow fire fighters count on your alertness and the ability to do your job safely, your families also count on you to return home safe. As you will see in this video, the impact it can have on family members when you fail to train or perform properly."
A short excerpt from this year's memorial service was then shown that depicted images at the National Fire Academy in Emitsbrug, Md, which honored the 85 fire fighters who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2010, was then shown.
Beblavy said "we've been pretty fortunate here. We'll continue to train."
The program ended with the benediction by Beblavy, who then thanked Blue Ridge Country Club for "a wonderful evening."
"I want to thank everyone for being here," he said. "And, I'm thanking you for everything you do for us."