Last night my Fire Department held our annual Holiday dinner. It is the one time of the year when we get together away from the station. In the past few years we have had all kinds of issues with people being people and things not working out the way they should and some people going away with hurt feelings, angry or just didn't show up for the event at all.
As with many volunteer fire departments from time to time, we have had "cliques" or groups of members not always working with everyone else. Again, it has caused hurt feelings, caused people to be angry and causes many to just stay away from the drama. I hate drama.
We have had several issues to work through this year from having a new chief, to having almost $15,000.00 in equipment that we know of stolen from the station. All of the officers have been juggled around in both the operations and in the corporation. The officers didn't always work together. That is difficult for the officers themselves and very hard for people trying to follow too many people leading in too many directions. This is particularly difficult when some personal feelings thrown in the mix with folks taking sides and still others not knowing which side to take or trying to remain neutral and do what is best for all involved and for the department itself.
In the past year we have lost several members for different reasons. I hate losing good fire fighters for ANY reason. I don't always agree with some of them personally. If they are good FFs, I can put up with some crap from them. It is a trade off. There is no way in a large organization to make every body happy all the time.
What goes on at a call and what happens at the station are two different things but everyone has to respect each other and their respective positions and skills or it will eventially affect business in both places. In this business, that can be dangerous.
On a positive note we have had several new members come into the department. Of course some of them won't stay past their first anniversary but a few will be with us for years to come. We have also experienced several of our older members who were not active come back to devote more time and become more involved in the department once again. This is a good thing but it also shows that complacency on our part in allowing certian things to go on was a factor in some members being inactive.
At one point this year we had less than $5,000.00 left in the budget. This year was a little rocky and a lot scary for some of us yet over the past 20+ years it has happend many times. We get buy. Even though it was a bad situation, it didn't effect the way we serve the public.
On Saturday at the dinner almost all members of the department were present with their families. A few members just couldn't make it for different reasons. With as many members as we have, there is no way to plan a time when everyone can attend. We had a nice dinner catered by the local deli and folks brought in side dishes and deserts. We didn't have a lot of decorations and ceremony. We had a few laughs and shed a few tears and everyone came away with a full tummy. The really surprising part was that everyone helped clean up!!
Our officers took great pains to see that the members who deserved service awards got them. WEe had two or three members with five year awards and one fire fighter with twenty years. Although, the Chief & the President both appologized to me because they realized that I have never received my twenty year plaque or service pins. My twenty year anniversary was in 2006 under another Chief and another President.
I suggested that they wait until 2011 to present my 25 yr award. It does hurt my feelings a bit but there are more important things going on.
Something new this year was the way we choose FF of the year. It is usually done at the annual meeting with people writing essays to make nominations and the department voting. This year, the officers choose the fire fighter of the year. My husband who has been a member since 1980 received that award. The Chief officers also presented a very special award to our oldest member who is 85 yrs old. He has been a member for over 40 years. He doesn't fight fire but is one of our most active supporters and does so much to make things easier for the rest of us. I don't know who was more emotional, the old man or the Chiefs giving the award. They really wanted to let him know that they do appreciate everything he does. The "statue" they presented him was very nice with the fire fighters prayer etched in glass behind it. They showed some very good taste in picking the gift. I was very proud of them. I AM very proud of them for more reasons than that as well.
The chief officers choose an officer of the year. The guy who received it year has worked very hard after coming back off medical leave and really did deserve it. The Lieutennant is now responsible for the junior firefighters. Since he was one of my juniors in the 90s and responsible for many of much of my gray hair, I am quite proud of him as well. Shoot, most of the officers deserve recognition because in the past 3 or 4 months, we have ALL worked to get things back on track.
One of our Lieutennants decided when we started planning the dinner that the department should do something for our Chief Officers this year. He talked to several of us and took it upon himself to order plaques for them. It was a big surprise to them and they did appreciate the recognition. It seems while they were busy thinking that their Jr officers needed to be recognized they didn't realize that they have worked harder than anyone in the process. I can't call them "young guys" but the oldest of the three, the Assistant Chief is 41 yrs old. The Chief and Deputy Chief are in their mid 30s and all have been firefighters for several years. All three of the Chief positions are elected by the membership. A few months ago, we elected a new Assistant Chief and finally brough together three men who do work well with each other. They seem to compliment each other and have made a great difference in how our department works.
On calls everything has worked the way it is supposed to with no arguments or hurt feelings. It looks like we are finally getting things lined out and on track in that area.
With the annual meeting coming up the candidates nominated for the postions are pretty much status quo. We are working well together at this point and it should continue through next year. I am sure this has been noticed by the membership and is why they aren't willing to make too many adjustments in the officers. For most positions the person doing the job was nominated and no one else was nominated. We will stil hold the official voting and allow people a chance to write in people for positons. If enough of them decide they want someone else who wasn't on the ballot in a position then that person will take office. It isn't something that happens often but it could.
As it stands, the President is also the Assistant Chief. The Vice-President is the Deputy Chief. I am the Secretary and the Safety Officer. The Chief's wife has become an associate member. Kendra takes care of the books and record keeping. She works at a bank and is good with facts and figures. We need someone with those skills in our operation. She isn't "officially" the treasurer but she writes the checks to pay the bills and presents them to the President & Chief for their signatures and gets them in the mail. She takes care of the mail and helps me out when I need her. She takes some of the pressure off the Chief and the president by doing what she can to assist them with various projects and duties. She is a great asset to the department. We all have full time jobs and having a "plan B" or a "back up" takes stress off all of us. The membership has enough confidence in her to have nominated her for Treasurer for the next year, running unopposed.
I am not going to even imagine that it will be smooth sailing for the next year but I really don't forsee the termoil and upheaval we have experienced over the last couple of years. We have a good group of dedicated people working together to make our department the best we can be.