BY SUSAN POAGE & ALVARO MEDEIROS
We recently met with our daily hometown heroes at the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad and then with the Berkeley Heights Fire Department. Many thanks to Joe Plocinski and Jim Hopkins, respectively, for setting these visits up and for their hospitality. The volunteers in both organizations are true heroes devoting long hours of complete service and sacrifice often at risk to their own safety in order to help, save, and rescue our community from misfortune. These are also some of the busiest volunteers around; they both rank among the highest volumes in the county.
The Rescue Squad, led by Howie Meyer, welcomed us to a monthly meeting this week, at which we had an opportunity to hear from members about what concerns them, as well as answer questions about our focus if elected to the town council. Chief among their concerns is the ability to attract volunteers, especially adult volunteers. As can be readily seen in the many signs posted around town, they are actively recruiting and every member of the community should seriously consider joining. We took it as a personal challenge to come up with ideas to help them achieve this goal.
Another concern is pensions: Berkeley Heights and Summit are the only two towns in the county that do not offer any pension. What sort of message does that send to these heroes?
Jim Hopkins, deputy chief and fire inspector, gave us a fact-filled and informative tour of the Fire Department shortly before joining Tower 1 and Engine 4 for realistic training at a house that is set to be demolished. This laser focus on training and practice is what sets this Fire Department apart from – and ahead of – its peers in terms of expertise and ability to serve in a wide variety of situations. Under the leadership of Tony Padovano, the 50-plus, all-volunteer members all are filled with a passion to serve and learn with enthusiasm and dedication. Here’s just one testament to that dedication: One member we spoke with was working and would attend some of the nights training exercise before joining his wife to celebrate their anniversary.
We cannot thank these truly outstanding heroes in our community enough and we should encourage each other and our families to emulate their examples of service. In the very least, we should all be sure to attend their fundraising functions and contribute to their fund drives.
For our part, when elected, Susan and I will will do everything possible to ensure their place of recognition and gratitude by the township leadership, and work toward getting them the necessary funding they need to continue their life-saving work. We commit to seizing every opportunity possible to recognize them as the Hometown Heroes they truly are.
The Rescue Squad always needs volunteers, both medical and auxiliary. If you are interested in joining or would like additional information, please click http://bhvrs.org/?page_id=13