Elvin Summers, 75, of Marklesburg was named the Marklesburg Volunteer Fire Co.’s “Firefighter of the Year” during ceremonies held Saturday evening. Several other awards were also presented during the event.
A 1961 Huntingdon Area High School graduate, Summers later attended Penn State where he received his bachelor of science degree in agriculture education. He later earned his master in education at Penn State in 1971.
He began his teaching career teaching agricultural education at the Conrad Weiser School District in Western Berks County. He later taught at the Juniata-Mifflin County Area Vocational Technical School.
Summers then taught agricultural education at the Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center at Mill Creek for 25 years.
After returning to Huntingdon County in the late 1970s, Summers joined the fire company and was an active firefighter. Since joining, he has held several positions within the company, including vice president, secretary and trustee.
He has also held the position of fire police captain and is active in the fire company’s fire police unit. He is also a first responder with the fire company’s ambulance division.
Summers served as a member of the Marklesburg Borough Council for 12 years, serving as president his entire time on council.
Summers, who was unable to attend the banquet due to health reasons, received the honor from past recipients Thomas Parks and Carl Barnett. Parks said the Firefighter of the Year Award is not always based on an individual who goes beyond others or not who made the most number of calls or one who stands above the rest.
“All volunteers of a fire company are important, not only to that company, but to the communities they serve. And many times, they do not let health problems and their own well being get in their way,” he said.
While Summers has been suffering health problems, Parks said he has never let his own health problems get in the way of community service. This, he said, shows the true unselfishness of a true volunteer.
Fire chief Marlin Hunsicker said the fire company answered a total of 99 fire calls during the year with an estimated fire loss of $144,000. The company’s ambulance division answered a total of 168 emergency calls during the same period.
Hunsicker also recognized several of its mutual aid companies. He presented the 2018 Fire Chief’s Award to Nathaniel Madden, who he said is an individual who is willing to help with anything asked of him.
The chief also presented a certificate of appreciation to Huntingdon County Commissioners Jeff Thomas, Scott Walls and chairman Mark Sather for taking the initiative to finally get the county’s emergency dispatch system updated. Just prior to the system upgrade, Hunsicker said the old system was “at the end of its life” and something desperately needed done.
He said it is great now to be able to both hear and transmit calls the company and its mutual companies receive.
Fire Co. president Brian Hunsicker also presented several certificates of appreciation including one to Saxton grant writer Branden Diehl. B. Hunsicker lauded Diehl for assisting the fire company in obtaining grants for many things, including a new generator for the fire hall and a water collection and drainage system for its rear parking area.
B. Hunsicker also recognized Bill Corbin who he said assists the fire company in many ways, including preparation of a year in review for 2018. Corbin, according to B. Hunsicker, also assists with other technical needs throughout the year.
B. Hunsicker presented his presidents award to member Audrey Oaks who could not be present. Her daughter Mitzi Fouse accepted her award.
Hunsicker also introduced guest speaker Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency director Joe Thompson. Thompson said it was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to address area residents and to speak on the purpose of the county’s EMA office.
Many county residents, he said, have different perceptions what the county’s EMA office and what it is all about. He gave a history of the EMA’s origin, stating that President John F. Kennedy created it in 1961 originally as Civil Defense.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that eventually created the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). Thompson said he is proud of how the county’s EMA has evolved over the past several years prior to him assuming the directorship.
Most importantly, he told the audience that county hometown volunteer fire companies like Marklesburg and other are their community’s first line of defense when any type of emergency occurs. Fire companies, he said, are the most important resource in any community.
Thompson said the EMA office, when needed, plays a secondary role in any emergency/disaster and is not in charge when they arrive on an emergency scene. “We’re there to help and provide any outside resources a fire company may need to bring any situation under control,” he said.
Thompson also noted the important role local community emergency management coordinators (EMCs) provide. Their importance cannot and should not be underestimated since they are required by the state for every municipality.
Local EMCs were beneficial this past year when the area was inundated with many inches of rain. EMCs, according to Thompson, helped assess water damage in their respective communities to determine if financial assistance could be gained by those suffering flood damage.
Today, Thompson said the EMA staff conducts and places a high emphasis on training and seeking grants, which the office received one last week from FEMA for training purposes. He also noted the equipment the local EMA has at its disposal.
Thompson also spoke on the shortage of volunteers across the state and what must be done to curtail the dwindling numbers. Pennsylvania, continued Thompson has lost thousands of volunteers over the years and if those numbers keep dwindling, the state is going to be in a sorry shape.
State officials, he said, are quickly realizing the sad state of affairs the state is in. He noted a Resolution 6 report recently completed on this that makes several recommendations on how to solve the problem.
“We all need to concentrate in bringing new people into our ranks and the state needs to focus on financial incentives and other ways to help us accomplish that. There is no single answer to the solution that is going to work for everyone, but we’ve got to at least do something,” concluded Thompson.
The Rev. Doug Satterlee gave the invocation and Troy Morningstar the benediction.