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There is a fairly new — but little known — organization in Walcott

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A Walcott pumper heads to the recent Walcott Day parade. It’s carrying a banner advertising the WVFA’s “Run to the Movies.” A closeup follows. Phil Roberts photos.

IMG_1288There is a fairly new — but little known — organization in Walcott that’s been formed to provide support for the community’s volunteer firefighters.

The Walcott Volunteer Firefighters Association (WVFA) was organized in 2011, and members began meeting in 2012. It is a group of people who use money from donations, memorials and fundraisers to apply toward, or pay for, fire department needs or wants that cannot be funded with taxpayer dollars under the Iowa Code.

WVFA’s contributions to the Walcott Fire Department (WFD) will replace the former “morale fund,” an account the department used to make purchases that improved firefighters’ morale,” says longtime Walcott firefighter Lon Warnecke, who was elected WVFA chairmen at its first official meeting on Aug. 29, 2012.

Other officers are vice chairman Roger Siebke, secretary Bridget Geigle and treasurer Christine Kirkley.

“There are some items the fire department budget could not continue to pay for with taxpayer dollars the way we had been doing in the past,” Warnecke says.

That includes gifts for firefighters who have retired after serving 15 years or more, gifts from Santa at Christmastime for the children of firefighters and memorials or flowers for firefighters or retired firefighters who have died.

“Those cannot be paid for with taxpayer dollars, so we chose to form an association to raise those needed funds,” Warnecke says.

“In speaking with other fire departments, this is a very good way for us to go,” added Siebke, a WFD firefighter.

Those eligible to join the WVFA are current Walcott Fire Department members and their spouses or significant others and associate or retired (honorary) WFD members and their spouses or significant others.

But financial assistance and time volunteered to assist at WVFA fundraisers are welcome from everyone.

Warnecke notes that checks people write for funeral memorials made payable to the Walcott Fire Department go to the city for the fire department’s general budget and are used for equipment purchases and repairs.

But checks made payable to the Walcott Volunteer Firefighters Association, while not tax deductible, go to the new group to cover purchases that were made by the morale fund in the past.

The WVFA already has made one purchase from a WFD wish list. It’s a state-of-the-art, large screen television that will connect directly to the department’s computer.

Warnecke says it will allow the showing of firefighting, hazardous material and emergency medical training videos that firefighters will be able to view from anywhere in their large meeting room.

But he says, “the push for the association is, of course, the children for the amount of time their parents spend here volunteering with the fire department throughout the year.

“We have a one-time get-together with children at Christmastime. Santa comes and brings a gift to each child.”

The WVFD, which meets quarterly or as needed at the fire station, has held one fundraiser and another is in the works.

“Last September, in conjunction with the Walcott Fire Department’s annual steak fry for the community, we raffled off a computer tablet and another item,” Warnecke says.

The next fundraiser, being held in conjunction with the Walcott Chamber of Commerce and staffed by volunteers, is a family fun event being held on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Victory Park in Walcott.

“Run to the Movies” features a 2K run/walk for children in four divisions through eighth grade. Registration is $15 each and begins at 4 p.m. The run/walk is at 5. All who register will receive a bright orange WVFD bandanna while supplies last.

The run/walk will take place rain or shine on Walcott streets and will begin and end at the park. Prize money will be awarded to top finishers in each age class.

Free park activities following the run/walk include jump houses, face painting, yard games and the playground. Dinner and drinks will be available for purchase at the food shack.

A movie, “Goonies,” will be shown on a large screen at dusk, and free popcorn will be served.

“It’s a family get-together,” Warnecke says. “We wish people would come out with lawn chairs and a blanket and join us for a fun night and a movie.”

Anyone who needs more information, wants to volunteer to help or wants to make a donation should call Warnecke at 284-6180.

Copyright 2013 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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I’ll never get over my love of being a firefighter

This old 1928 Chevrolet fire truck was at Iowa 80 Truckstop's annual Walcott Truckers Jamboree. Phil Roberts photo.

Note: This was written in Las Vegas, Nev., in the early morning hours of Nov. 30, 2010.

I’m sitting in a big-city hotel room as I write this, and you’d think the street outside my window is named Siren Boulevard. It’s early morning and police cars, ambulances and fire trucks have been racing by periodically for a couple of hours, sometimes two or three at a time, their sirens wailing.

That’s life in the big city, I guess.

But I’m OK with that. I look out the window most each time an emergency vehicle passes. In fact, when a fire department pumper went by a few minutes ago with its siren screaming and its many red and blue lights pulsating, I would have given anything to have been able to jump on board and been part of the crew. Fire or EMS, it wouldn’t have mattered.

Paid or volunteer, active or retired, firefighters are forever part of a close-knit fraternity. There are no meetings, and there are no dues, but it’s a fraternity nonetheless. That’s because no matter where they live or serve, firefighters are called on to do many of the same kinds of jobs using the same principles, and they experience the same emotions. Borrowing a line from ABC’s old “Wide World of Sports” program, firefighters all experience the same “thrill of victory and agony of defeat.”

In the old days, you could accurately say firemen were part of a brotherhood. But things change, and women are now a valuable and, in most places, welcome part of the fire service. So the word “firemen” has become “firefighter” and “brotherhood” is now “fraternity,” and I’m just fine with that.

I spent 27 years as an active duty Walcott (Iowa) volunteer firefighter, 14 of them as one of the department’s first-ever group of emergency medical technicians. There were only four of us in the beginning (1979) and, until others received the training, we felt obligated to respond to every call for which we were available.

Although I’m now on the WFD Auxiliary, helping out mainly with public relations and media relations tasks when asked, I hung up my helmet in 2003.

I was burned out from responding to an increasing number of calls for service, and my work schedule at that time prohibited me from attending most of the department business meetings and training sessions.

Now, seven years later, I’m no longer burned out, and my schedule has eased since I am semi-retired these days. Some of the more senior current firefighters — friends I served with way back when who are still at it — have told me I should consider returning to active duty.

I thought about it but have decided not to re-up. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to help. Like many volunteer units, WFD is short-handed during daytime hours when many of the members are at work in the Quad-Cities.

I truly miss the fire department, serving the residents of Walcott and those outsiders who’ve had accidents, car fires or medical problems while passing through.

But what I’ve gained in knowledge and experience over the years is now offset by age and a body that, thanks to too many years of the good life, is certainly not as fit as it once was. And firefighting can be quite demanding.

In addition, the memory of how much I enjoyed being part of a team that worked well together when there was a job to do and played together when the job was done is offset the memory of missed nights of sleep, interrupted family gatherings and the heartache firefighters often feel when they’ve done all they can to help someone, but it hasn’t been enough.

That doesn’t mean, though, that this lifetime member of the firefighting fraternity doesn’t still get excited at sound of a pumper’s approaching siren, the roar of its engine and the rumble of its tires on the pavement, whether it’s home or in the big city.

An old firefighter never quite gets over that.

Copyright 2010 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Long-lost friends trigger great memories

 

 

Here I am -- younger, slimmer and with no gray hair -- in my associate member days at Durant Ambulance Service. Like they say, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken been care of myself!"

Here I am -- younger, slimmer and with no gray hair -- in my associate member days at Durant Ambulance Service. Like they say, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken been care of myself!"

 

One of the joys of getting out and about is the chance that you’ll run into some long-lost friends. And one of the benefits of seeing them again is triggering your memories of the great times and good stories you share with them from the past.

I recently crossed paths in Muscatine with Durant’s Barb Price and her husband of 55 years, Darrell.

It had been years since we’d seen each other. I used to see Barb a lot, sometimes under less-than-pleasant conditions, like at car accidents, when I was a Walcott Fire Department volunteer and she was a member of Durant Ambulance Service, which is also staffed by volunteers.

In addition to emergency medical service calls in the Walcott area, I’d see Barb at ambulance business meetings and training sessions.

That’s because fellow Walcott firefighters Larry Keller and Kevin Coughlin and I also were associate members of the ambulance service.

We stayed in Durant to help staff the ambulances during busy times, like during the Durant Polka Fest. And we’d assist in other ways. For that we were permitted to attend ambulance training sessions so we could get our emergency medical technician recertification hours close to home.

I retired from Walcott Fire Department in 2003 after 27 years of service. I hung up my helmet because the second-shift job I had at the time was preventing me from attending WFD business meetings and training sessions. Also, I’d come to the conclusion that the fire service, and all that it involves, is better suited for someone in their 20s through 40s than someone in his 50s, as I was then.

Barb told me she also is retired now from Durant Ambulance. It wouldn’t be polite to give her age, but she jokes that she retired after going on a traffic accident call on the interstate and being mistaken by someone for one of the patients.

Seeing Barb reminded me of a couple of stories. One involved the old blue bicycle she used to pedal from Price Oil Co., the family business, to the ambulance building nearby to answer calls and attend meetings.

Once, when Barb left the ambulance building, her bike wasn’t where she had left it. Then someone pointed out that practical jokers had hoisted it onto the roof of the building.

Barb’s a good-natured person. She just laughed and waited patiently while some folks got a ladder and brought the bike back down.

I wasn’t involved in that prank, but I admit I did participate in another one that comes to mind.

Before the Durant Ambulance Service’s building next to the fire station was constructed, the meetings and training sessions took place in a small building that had formerly been home to Durant’s library and, at that time in the early ’80s, was being used as the police station.

One night during a training session, we were learning how to properly package a patient for transport on a backboard. One of the ambulance service members, kind-hearted Emogene Sorgenfrey, reluctantly consented to be our “patient.” That was a decision she’d soon regret.

We carefully applied a cervical collar to Em and placed her on the backboard, completely immobilized and strapped in place with her arms at her sides. She wasn’t going anywhere. Well, that’s not quite true. Though she couldn’t leave the backboard, she was, in fact, about to go somewhere.

Someone suggested carrying the backboard, with Em on it, across the street to the Dew Drop Inn. We did just that, despite her protests, and we deposited our patient on the bar.

Patrons were amused. This had to be a first in the history of Durant.

Em was red with embarrassment but took it all in good stride. Actually, since she was immobilized, she had little choice. Moments later we carried her back across the street and freed her.

I don’t remember Em ever again volunteering to be our patient.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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