Firefighter auxiliary on recruiting drive

August 22, 1994|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Sun Staff Writer

The 13 members of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department feel their 52-year-old organization has not outlived its usefulness, despite its steadily declining membership.

Since 1942, dozens of Elkridge women joined the auxiliary to share an interest in the volunteer fire department with their husbands, fathers and brothers. The organization enjoyed its heyday in the 1940s when it boasted 59 members.

As recently as 1981, the auxiliary had 36 members. But not anymore.

"We haven't had that kind of numbers in quite a few years," said Bonnie Poligardo, a six-year member. "The problem is most people think they have to have family members in the volunteer fire department to join."

The organization will hold a membership drive at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19 in the firehouse hall, at 6275 Old Baltimore-Washington Blvd.

Cathy Pryor, the group's president for the past year, said any woman in the community can join.

The organization has performed a fund-raising tour de force in the past five years, raising $10,000 to furnish the new kitchen, $16,000 to complete payments on the department's pickup truck and $3,000 for new curtains for the community hall that is being built on top of the firehouse.

The hall will be rented out with the fire department receiving a share of the profits.

"When you can hand the men $10,000 in cash for kitchen [appliances], we've worked hard," said Millie Falter, a member since 1948, when she married the son of the then-department chief.

All the money is raised through craft shows, bake sales, carnivals, raffles and Christmas bazaars.

More than half the members have family who have been involved in the department.

"You just can't get rid of it when it gets in your blood," said Linda Shipley, who remains active in the auxiliary although she has moved to Ellicott City.

"It does get in your blood," said Joyce Nichols, whose father, three brothers, husband and several sons have been involved with the department.

Alice Blair, a 15-year member, said the sound of fire engines has always excited her. She was one of the first women in Howard County to belong to a fire department, serving as an ambulance attendant for three years in the late 1960s.

"I'm still interested in the fire department. When the fire alarm goes off, I get that feeling," Mrs. Blair said. "It's the feeling of helping people."

And just as firefighters help the community, the auxiliary helps the department.

"They are always there when we need them," said Robert Lisle, the assistant department chief. "They bring us drinks and food while we are training. They raise money so we can buy more gear. They help staff our picture drives. They are more than willing to be there."

Oddly, the firefighters often do not tell auxiliary members what is needed, Mrs. Pryor said.

"We have to ask what the department needs or we overhear our husbands talking at home and we just do it," Mrs. Pryor said.

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