Christmas might be over, but the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company got a major gift from Harford County Executive Barry Glassman Saturday with his commitment of more than half a million dollars to fully fund a new Hanson Road substation building.
“I will be including in the budget an additional $540,000 to complete the Hanson Road substation, to bring the county’s total to $1.2 million,” Glassman, who is starting to develop his fiscal 2019 budget, said during the fire company’s annual awards banquet and officer installation ceremony at the Richlin Ballroom in Edgewood.
The room erupted in cheers and applause after Glassman’s announcement. Joppa-Magnolia and its community supporters have been working to raise money — beyond the county’s initial 2014 commitment of $700,000 — and start construction on a replacement for a more than 25-year-old facility that company leaders say is too small to meet their needs and the community’s needs.
Fire company members and representatives from allied public safety agencies, as well as elected officials, gathered to celebrate Joppa-Magnolia’s accomplishments in 2017 and witness the swearing in of officers for 2018.
The company handled 5,147 calls for service last year, including 3,755 EMS calls and 1,392 fire calls, according to the banquet program. Saturday’s event was the first fire company awards banquet of 2018.
The company also paid tribute to two life members who died in 2017, including John A. Kennedy, who was inducted into the Harford-Cecil Volunteer Firemen’s Association Hall of Fame later in the evening, and Donald J. Cassett.
Cassett, who was also a long-serving member of the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company and received that company’s top honor, the James Warner Award, in February 2017, died in September, according to his obituary posted on Legacy.com.
Glassman, who is running for a second term, curtailed funding early in his first term for major capital projects to focus on employees and getting the county’s debt under control. The $700,000 for the Hanson Road station was allocated under his predecessor, former County Executive David Craig.
He said Saturday that the county is getting back on “good financial footing.”
“We’re starting to get up and can see the light of day, so I want to make sure we take care of our volunteer firemen and EMS services,” Glassman said.
Fire company President Danny Adkins called Glassman’s announcement “the best news we could have heard.” The funding commitment means the company can fully cover the $1.2 million cost of building a new substation, Adkins said after the banquet.
Company leaders plan to break ground in late spring — pending approval of building permits — and construction should take one year, Adkins said.
The new facility will be built behind the existing facility, which Adkins said is the busiest of Joppa-Magnolia’s three stations. He said the new building will have three vehicle bays, augmenting the three bays in the existing station, plus living space for 20 people.
The original station will be renovated to provide suitable recreation space for volunteer firefighters and EMS workers. The company must raise money to complete the renovation, Adkins said.
The Nicholson family, of Edgewood, has lent its support to the “Fund the Fort” campaign, as a show of gratitude after the fire company helped the family get through cancer treatment for Karen and Robert Nicholson’s son, Nathaniel, from 2012 to 2015. Nathaniel was declared cancer free in August 2015.
Adkins said money raised through the Nicholson family’s outreach could be used for interior furnishings.
“They've helped a whole lot, so we’ll probably use that money for the interior things that are needed to fill a firehouse,” Adkins said.
Top volunteers for 2017
Kevin Thomas was named the company’s Fireman of the Year for 2017.
“This person has the knowledge, the dedication... to one day become the leader of this department,” Fire Chief Bill Vanarsdale Jr. said before calling Thomas’ name for the surprise announcement.
Vanarsdale presented the Chief’s Award to Jessica Thomas for her efforts to support all aspects of running the fire company, even with a full-time job and raising a family with several young children.
Bernie Wesolowski was named EMS Provider of the Year. Brandon Clark, the EMS chief, praised Wesolowski for his behind-the-scenes work overseeing maintenance to keep the company’s ambulances on the road.
“The maintenance aspect of these ambulances, running 3,500-plus calls a year, is no easy task,” Clark said.
Don Hare III, coordinator of the JMVFC youth cadet program, presented the Cadet of the Year award to Jenna Mcquay, who plans to join the company next year when she turns 16.
The top fire responders for 2017 were Stephen Skwaryk, who had 770 calls; Drew Halman, 612; Ryan Harrington, 412; Adam Sennett, 412; Greg Scowden, 387; Christian Ebert, 329; Kyle Kamberger, 326; Jeremy Heinz, 322; Tyler Dailey, 320; and Joe Burrs, 289 calls.
The top volunteer EMS responders were Leila Ward, with 197 calls; Greg Scowden, 101; Gary Gullion, 96; Bernie Wesolowski, 80; Anna Doran, 74; Kyle Kamberger, 49; Holly Ludwig, 42; Jason Kirstein, 40; Ian Williams, 38; and Kyle Barthel, 30 calls.
Vanarsdale presented Edgar M. Williams Life Saver Awards to members of the company who used their skills to revive patients and deliver them to a medical facility with a “viable pulse.” Awards were presented to Jeremy Heinz, James Pyle, Justin Reinecke, Tyler Dailey, Ryan Harrington, Greg Scowden, Don Hare III, John Gray, Andrew Doyle and Joseph Burrs.
Hall of Fame
Life member John A. Kennedy, who died in February 2017, was inducted into the Harford-Cecil Volunteer Firemen’s Association Hall of Fame Saturday.
The honor was given to his daughters, Richelle and Sandra Kennedy and Allison Futterer — Futterer did not attend, but her sisters accepted the award.
Ruth Tolliver, of the Harford-Cecil Association, read a biography of Kennedy submitted by the fire company. Kennedy was born in Illinois and raised in an orphanage. He spent 12-and-a-half years in the Air Force and then worked for the Grumman Aerospace Corporation as a purchasing agent and safety officer.
He worked at the Grumman plant in Glen Arm and lived in Joppatowne, according to Tolliver. Kennedy spent 29 years with Joppa-Magnolia, where he was a paramedic, instructor and chaplain, according to a biography in the banquet program.
He had 51 years of service as a paramedic with Grumman and the fire company, making him “at one time” the oldest active paramedic in Maryland, according to the program.
“John was a friend and a mentor of many members of Joppa-Magnolia, and possessed a great sense of humor and could expose a light side to any situation,” Tolliver said.