A pair of Summit Hill residents were honored at the Summit Hill Diligence Fire Company's annual Christmas party last Saturday evening for the service they have provided to the community and their volunteerism. Fire company Relief Treasurer and Safety Officer Kevin Steber was named 2012 Firefighter of the Year while Summit Hill resident Jeffrey Szczecina was honored as the 2012 DFC Volunteer of the Year at the party held at the Hilltop Community Center adjacent to the fire station.
Steber received the fifteenth annual Paul "Paulky" Yuricheck Firefighter of the Year award for his community service, his work on the firefighter side as well as his work on the administrative side of the company, according to DFC Fire Chief Shawn Hoben.
"It's always tough to pick that person because there are a lot of people who deserve this, but there's so many reasons why this person should get this award," said Hoben prior to naming Steber as the recipient. He cited Steber's work as Treasurer and Safety Officer which included a series of special projects including assuming responsibility for helping the department transition to narrow band radios. Hoben said Steber took it upon himself to reprogram and reconfigure the pagers for the volunteers.
Another area where Hoben said Steber stepped up was when he approached SHCIO and solicited funds for new air packs for the department. "He and his fiancée, [Kira Michalik] convince SHCIO to donate money to use for the air packs the department needed," said Hoben.
The chief also cited the massive relief effort that Steber led to send supplies to Sea Bright, New Jersey as evidence that he is a great leader. The effort which started on Facebook as an attempt to take supplies down in his jeep mushroomed within a week to a massive relief caravan including a 53-foot trailer full of donated supplies, several cars filled with volunteers, a mobile repair truck and a bus of mechanics from Kovatch Motor Enterprises to repair emergency vehicles in the devastated town.
"He is definitely a part of the brotherhood and definitely meets the criteria for this award which is 'Dedication, Commitment, Honor'," Hoben concluded.
Steber was caught up in emotion as he accepted the award from Hoben and DFC President Larry Black. His remarks were brief but heartfelt as he addressed his brother firefighters and their families. "I've been in the fire service for twenty-two years, and I must say this is the happiest night of my life. Thank you all so much."
His fiancée Kira Michalik joined him in the front of the room as he received a warm round of applause.
Earlier in the evening, Szczecina was surprised to be named 2012 DFC Volunteer of the Year by the officers of the Summit Hill Fire Company. Hoben said Szczecina was selected to receive the award because of his continuous support of not only the company but also the community through his work in different organizations and coaching sports teams as well as supporting the fire company.
Upon accepting the award, Szczecina said, "I am really shocked. To receive this was very shocking but totally appreciated. Thank you."
Hoben also announced that once the business selected to receive the 2012 Business of the Year award is contacted, the name of that organization will be released as well. Hoben said the business of the year is an organization that goes the extra mile to support and assist the fire company with fundraising, sponsorships and general assistance.
Besides the annual awards, the officers recognized the women who aid in managing the fundraising and assist with grant writing for the company. "These ladies help plan our fundraisers and do so much people do not see or are not aware of," said Hoben. He pointed out the women are instrumental in assisting Yuricheck with the annual Chinese auction as well as organizing the dances, the golf tournament and the letter drive. The list included Carol Ockenhouse, Jess Matzen, Nancy Henninger, Angie Giglotti, Judy Hoben and Amanda Lehman. The officers will be presenting them with a headband.
Also, all of the active firefighters received a survival knife that included a punch to knock out car windows in case of an accident.