Members of Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue (HRFR) gathered to celebrate the past year’s accomplishments Saturday night in Freedom Hall at the Oasis of Love Church, Walker Township.
Fire chief Gary Garner opened the evening by voicing his appreciation for county and municipal leaders as well as the spouses and family members of the volunteers for their support.
“We are moving in on 10 years of being Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue. I’m proud to say I’ve seen this organization grow through the years,” Garner said. “Everything comes with a struggle at first as you are blending all of these people together from different organizations, but I’m telling you, we’ve made this organization stronger and I’m very proud to be chief of this organization. We are never stronger than when we are together.”
He then shared the company’s mission statement, “Huntingdon Regional Fire & Rescue is a team of volunteer firefighters comprised of multiple fire districts functioning as a united department to provide services to our coverage area with professionalism, dedication, integrity, and training. The provided services will include a vast range of emergency response, fire prevention, and public education to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all residents. While protecting and serving our communities, we will do all that we can to ensure the safety and well-being of our members, so that they may return to their families unharmed and healthy. We are always working to move us into the future of the ever changing fire operations.”
An invocation was offered by the Rev. Art Speck, HRFR chaplain, prior to the turkey dinner, prepared by members of the Oasis of Love Church, being served.
Following the meal, Garner welcomed special guests and shared statistics from the previous year.
“To highlight some of the past year’s accomplishments, we ran 526 calls in 2018 and put in over 2,400 hours just on fire calls. We did almost 4,500 hours just on training and events like fundraising,” he said. “That’s where I come back to thanking everyone who is involved. It’s a lot of hours.”
Garner added that there have been nearly 80 fire calls already for 2019.
“There have been years’ past where if we ran 80 calls in a year, we were busy,” he said. “We’ve had months where we’ve run 70 calls in one month, which is pretty amazing. Volunteers, your time and dedication to this department is very much appreciated. I know you don’t always hear that, but it is very much appreciated. Our community does a really good job supporting us and we appreciate that.”
Garner encouraged anyone interesting in becoming a part of the fire company to reach out.
The fire chief announced that sweatshirts would be given to all members who had completed their hours and responded to at least 10 percent of the calls in 2018.
“We have some awards to give away tonight,” said Garner. “For the Good Neighbor Award, it is so hard to choose. We have so many people out in the community who support us.”
Two Good Neighbor Awards were presented, one to the Oasis of Love Church and the second to Mactown Pizza.
“We wanted to show our appreciation to Oasis of Love, not only because they do this banquet for us each year, but because the membership here supports the department in many, many ways and we just want to thank them,” Garner said. “The Mactown Pizza shop in McConnellstown, it doesn’t matter what we have going on, but they support us. If we have an event and we need something, we can go across the street and get it. He has never turned us down.”
A special plaque was presented to the representatives of Huntingdon Borough, Walker Township and Oneida Township in attendance. A similar plaque will be given to Henderson Township..
Those in attendance enjoyed a video highlighting the work of the department over the past year.
Garner then presented the Junior Firefighter of the Year Award.
“We have a lot of young representatives and we try to pick out the ones who are getting involved and make sure they are learning about what we do,” he said. “We have a young man who is here who is really taking a great interest, Vance Palazzari.”
The President’s Award was presented by company president Harry Salter.
“As president, I have the privilege of picking someone who has gone above and beyond,” Salter said. “That is extremely difficult because everyone here does that a lot. This individual has been here for all of our fundraising events from start to finish, he’s always in the kitchen and has decided he needed a long retirement.”
The President’s Award recognized the contributions of Tom King.
The Chief’s Award was also presented by Garner.
“I have so many people who are deserving,” he said. “They take responsibility and do a lot of things. You don’t always see them. There are 20 different people I could have picked this year, but this year, the Chief’s Award goes to Brandon Householder.”
The final award of the evening was the Firefighter of the Year.
“This person this year, if he is not at work, he makes every call we have,” Garner said. “It doesn’t matter what it is, he’s at every event.”
The Firefighter of the Year Award was presented to Tim Furlong, who was not able to be present at the banquet.