EAST SHELBY – The East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company may be one of the smallest in the county, having responded to the fewest calls, but that doesn’t diminish their importance in the community, Fire Chief Andy Beach said at the annual firemen’s banquet Saturday night.
Lifelong member David Green was emcee for the evening, who entertained fellow firefighters and their guests with his usual banter of jokes.
Welcomes were extended by Ladies Auxiliary president Shirley Printup and Fire Company president Mike Fuller. The Auxiliary accepted three new members this year and the Fire Company two.
A moment of silence was observed three Auxiliary members and one fireman who died during the year – Mildred Green, Jeanne Rechkahn Ralph, Cathy Balcerzak and Charles Allen.
In a special presentation, the family of the late David Culver gave the fire company a plaque on which to record the names of those chosen as Firefighter of the Year.
David’s widow Gail Culver, son Dan Culver and grandson Nicholas Culver wanted the fire company to have a proper place to permanently honor Firefighters of the Year. The fire company started choosing a firefighter for that honor in 1975 and David won it in 1976.
Officers of the East Shelby Ladies Auxiliary were installed by Rosemary Pray from Shelby Ladies Auxiliary. Officers for 2019 are Shirley Printup, president; Bronwyn Green, vice president; Sawyer Green, secretary; Carol Lonnen, treasurer; Melissa Bonafede, Sharlene Pratt and Elaine Newton, trustees; and Rose Allen and Carol Lonnen, chaplains.
Printup commended Pray, 89, who has been a member of Shelby Firemen’s Ladies Auxiliary for 66 years.
Andy Benz, chief of Shelby Volunteer Fire Company, installed the East Shelby Fire Company officers. Administrative officers are Mike Fuller, president; Dan Culver, vice president; Karen Bracey, secretary; Allen Turner, treasurer; Ken Printup, Sharon Grimes, Gordon Reigle and Walter Dingman, trustees; and David Green, steward.
Line officers are Andy Beach, chief; Devin Taylor, 1st assistant chief; Deb Taylor, 2nd assistant chief; Dennis MacDonald, 3rd assistant chief; Jeff Taylor, captain; Julie Taylor, lieutenant; Laura Fields, fire police chief; and Sue Behrend and Mike Fuller, EMS officers.
Andy Benz said he was honored to be asked to install East Shelby’s officers.
“It shows how far our fire companies have come in past years,” he said, no doubt referring to the rift back in the 1950s when several Shelby members split and formed the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company.
Fuller and past president Jackie Keller announced Dan Culver as recipient of the President’s Award.
“It was an easy decision to choose this individual, because of his dedication to the fire company and high quality of service,” Fuller said.
Fuller also present a plaque recognizing Keller for her service as president.
When it came to the fire chief’s award, Andy Beach said there were many deserving individuals, but after a lot of thinking, he named Debbie Taylor as “Firefighter of the Year.”
“We have an outstanding line of officers on our team, but Debbie is always on top of things,” Beach said. “She reminds me of meetings and goes above and beyond. She even cleaned my office last week. She is available for calls day or night and is often the first person on the scene. I have no doubt that in a couple of years, Debbie will be the first female chief of the East Shelby Fire Company.”
Certificates were presented to members for years of service. Several had five and 10 years, with Mike Smith, Louise Covey and Wanda Dingman being recognized for 25 years. Bronwyn Green with 30 years and Mary Zelazny with 35 years also received citations from Senator Robert Ortt, Assemblyman Mike Norris and Michael Hicks, representing Congressman Chris Collins.
Beach announced the fire company had received a $150,000 grant through Ortt and a $20,000 grant from Rural Development to help with the purchase of a new pumper/tanker. Dan and Nicholas Culver worked on the $150,000 grant and Allen Turner worked to secure the $20,000.
While the money is taxpayer dollars, Ortt said he was privileged he was able to get some of it back for the community. He praised the firefighters, saying how much more difficult it is being a volunteer firefighter today, with all the required training hours, than it was 35 or 50 years ago.
The fire company hopes to have delivery of their new truck by the Orleans County 4-H Fair the end of July.
Mike Norris weighed in on the pending legislation in Albany banning gun raffles.
“This is the type of aggressive agenda coming out in New York state,” Norris said. “The folks in New York City don’t realize how these fire departments depend on gun raffles to fund their companies.”
Todd Ralph was presented with the Fire Chief’s award for volunteering to teach the OSHA refresher class each year.
“One thing I always dreaded was having to find a location and go and take the eight-hour class,” Beach said. “Then Todd said he was certified and could teach it in-house.”
Printup and Sawyer Green recognized Debbie Green for serving as secretary of the Auxiliary and then named her as “Auxiliary Member of the Year.”
Jessie Green was acknowledged as an outgoing trustee.
It is customary for the Auxiliary to present the firemen with a gift each year, and this year they decided on new tables for the dining hall. Fifty eight-foot plastic tables have been purchased, which will be much easier to move around, Printup said.
David Green made the final presentation of the evening, giving his Steward’s Award to Sharlene Pratt.
“She is continuous here helping us,” Green said.