Helping firefighters is helping the community

Neighbors

October 05, 1999|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I AM THE incurable optimist. Every day, I open the mail and think, "This is the day I get the perfect letter!" A million dollars in the mail, a dear friend back in touch after all these years, a piece of paper that will change my life. Of such things are dreams made.

Reality is different. Most days, I get a couple of bills, a lot of ads and fund-raising letters. How boring. But this week, one fund-raising letter caught my attention -- from Arundel Volunteer Fire Department Station 7. That is a cause I am very happy to support.

Sixteen years ago, I was expecting my second child. We had carefully chosen the finest obstetrician and the best hospital, and mapped out the quickest route to get there. The bags were packed. We were ready.

But the baby had ideas of his own (a trait he has kept right through his teen-age years). One week passed after the due date, then two. Finally, almost three weeks late, that baby made up his mind. It was time. Right away.

I called the doctor and described the symptoms, and was told, "Don't come to the hospital. Call the ambulance." Five minutes later, two firemen were in my room, helping me through the birth. No fancy medical degrees. No high-tech hospital equipment. Just two guys who had their own jobs and their own lives but wanted to give something extra to their community, to be there when help was needed.

For 16 years, I've kept in touch with Hugh Blocker, a local CPA whose skills as a volunteer were so valuable that night. He takes special pride in the pictures I send him of Stephen, the first baby he helped deliver.

And I have a special place in my heart for the volunteers in local fire departments who give up their free time and often their safety to help protect their neighbors. So, when I receive a donation plea from the Arundel Volunteer Fire Department, I say yes.

Station 7, on Davidsonville Road, answered more than 1,000 fire calls last year and more than 2,000 rescue and medical calls. Although the station has a few paid firefighters, most of them are volunteers. Many, like Scot Marchande, have long ties to Station 7. Scot's grandfather and father were volunteers there, helping out since Station 7 opened in 1956.

Scot has been a volunteer for more than 12 years. Why does he do it? In Scot's words: "Heart and family."

Sometimes the work is heartbreaking, such as the fire that killed two children in Gambrills last month. The firefighters don't like to talk about the tragedies. One of them said only, "We went in and did what we had to do."

Our county is blessed to have the support of our dedicated volunteer firefighters. Even so, some might ask, why should we give money to the fire department when we already pay county taxes? Arundel Volunteer Fire Department is a private, nonprofit operation, not a county government agency. The county provides two firefighters per day at Station 7, along with part of its operating budget and one of its fire engines.

The six other fire and rescue vehicles and much of the money for operating expenses come from money raised by the department. And the work donated by local volunteers saves us thousands of dollars annually.

But the equipment also needs to be replaced because of wear. This year, the department needs to replace Engine 71, which has answered about 10,000 calls since it was put into service in 1982. A new engine, including the necessary tools and equipment, will cost about $300,000.

Station 7 will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 1: 30 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine. Stop by to see the engines and other equipment, and firefighting and fire extinguisher demonstrations.

The county sheriff's department will do fingerprinting. There will be door prizes and sales of food and baked goods.

Station 7 is on Davidsonville Road (Route 424) a half-mile from the intersection with Route 450 in Gambrills.

Walk for Kellian

A walk-a-thon will be held Saturday in honor of 14-year-old Kellian Kennedy to raise money for the National Bone Marrow Donor Program.

Kellian, a graduate of Arthur Slade Regional Catholic School, has leukemia. Yesterday, she flew to Seattle for treatments at the Hutchinson Center for Cancer Research to prepare for the bone marrow transplant offering her the only chance of survival.

One of Kellian's wishes has been a local bone marrow drive to help save other children with blood diseases. In August, she spoke at a fund-raiser and information session about the program. She hopes the walk-a-thon will raise the money needed for the screening of potential marrow donors.

Testing is expensive, costing $50 per person, but without the tests, many children's lives will be lost.

Come and participate in the walk-a-thon, in the morning, afternoon or all day. Take pledges by the mile or just donations.

The walk-a-thon will be held at Sawmill Creek Park, near Dorsey Road and Interstate 97, from 8: 30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a pledge sheet or more information, call Leo Zerhusen at 410-859-1297 or Glory Palmer at 410-923-0608.

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