Level Volunteer Fire Company celebrates 65 years of service to its community

The Level Volunteer Fire Company celebrated not only its top achievers from 2017 but the 65 years of service its members — many who are drawn from the same families — have provided to their community in that time, during its annual awards banquet Saturday.

“We have a lot of different people in our organization who make it what it is,” company President Sandra Gallion said as she delivered her president’s report.

She recognized the front-line firefighters and EMS personnel, as well as the many people in the company’s administrative section and the auxiliary who work behind the scenes to complete the multiple tasks that make the company work and ultimately get fire and EMS apparatus on the road — people who do everything from paying bills, putting on community events, even making sure the floor of the fire hall is clean and shiny.

“I thank each and every one of you for all that you have done, not only for each of us but for the community of Level,” Gallion said.

Gallion and other company leaders also paid tribute to the members who worked during the nor’easter that wrought extensive damage throughout Harford County last Friday. Firefighters and EMS personnel from Level and Harford’s other volunteer companies responded to multiple calls for service, and Level opened its station to people who had been stranded in traffic snarls after the I-95 Tydings Bridge and Route 40 Hatem Bridge across the Susquehanna River were closed.

This all happened as the fire station was running off its generator, since the storm knocked out the power.

Members even responded to two fire calls during the banquet. One call was in Darlington, outside Level’s primary service area, and one in Webster Village within its service area, according to Chief Nolan Gallion Jr., Sandra Gallion’s husband.

“Teamwork is what we do,” Sandra Gallion said. “Teamwork is what happened [last Friday] night, teamwork is what happened last year.”

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who grew up in Level and is a past president of the fire company, presented a proclamation to Gallion in honor of the company’s 65th anniversary. Level was founded in the winter of 1953, as local residents realized the need to have their own fire company when community member Eugene Hoshall’s house was damaged in a Feb. 6 fire that year, according to the banquet program.

“God bless you on 65 years,” Glassman said. “This community should be proud, and I’m proud to be just a boy from Level and recognize you.”

The company also memorialized three members who died last year, including Kenneth “Smoke” Starr, Joseph Worthington and Russell Gallion Sr. All three were past chiefs, and Mr. Starr and Mr. Worthington were charter members; Mr. Gallion also was a past president, according to the program.

Level did not make a firefighter of the year or EMS person of the year award for 2017, according to Nolan Gallion.

The fire company handled 1,147 calls for service in 2017, including 204 fire calls and 943 EMS calls, according to the program.

The Ladies Auxiliary put on 49 functions last year, and its members worked 4,814 hours at those functions, according to the program.

The company recognized during the banquet its top fire and EMS responders and auxiliary members with the most function hours, as well as members for their years of service. Four long-serving members were inducted into the Harford-Cecil Volunteer Firemen’s Association Hall of Fame.

Hall of Famers

“Each year we are lucky enough to induct somebody from Level into the Harford-Cecil Hall of Fame,” Ruth Tolliver, the Hall of Fame committee chair, said.

One person inducted into the Hall of Fame was Elizabeth Worthington, a founding and charter member who died in 1994. Her granddaughter, Mary Worthington, accepted the award.

Elizabeth Worthington joined the Level auxiliary in May 1953 and was elected its first president, Tolliver said, reading a biography.

“She helped establish the bylaws and led the way for the auxiliary that is here today,” Tolliver said.

Mrs. Worthington was also known for being active with Level’s popular Thanksgiving community dinner and oyster dinner, collecting funds for the company’s Ambulance Club, bringing baked goods and flowers and vegetables from her garden to the firehouse, her dedication to her church and love of travel. She worked as an accountant and bookkeeper for the former Bata Shoe Co. of Belcamp, Tolliver said.

Mary Worthington, 58, of Level, is an administrative member of the fire company and an auxiliary member.

“I was practically raised in the firehouse,” she said after the banquet.

Mary Worthington said volunteering at the community Thanksgiving dinner and then sitting down as “a fire company family” for their own dinner was “one of my best memories growing up.”

Diana Caudill was another Hall of Fame inductee. The company chaplain and auxiliary vice president has been an auxiliary member since 1974 and fire company member since 1977. Tolliver said she was one of the first women to ride the back of a fire truck, and she is trained as an EMT.

Inductee C. Dale Burkins, the company’s current vice president and past president, joined Level in 1975. He is known for designing and building a training maze that had been in the attic of the firehouse until the facility underwent renovations, as well as being a singer and guitar player, according to Tolliver.

Inductee Lori Denbow is also a member of the auxiliary and fire company, since 1985 and 1989, respectively. She has been named Firefighter of the Year and EMS Person of the Year and earned the Lifesaving Award, Tolliver said.

Top responders

The top fire responders for 2017 were Nolan Gallion Jr. with 271 calls, Larry A. Mabe, 247; James Martin Sr., 213; Buddy Testerman, 204; Clarence Ross, 191; Herman Schweers, 191; Jimmie Hawkins, 179; Lori Denbow, 165; Morris Wagner, 165 and Martin Chidsey, 151 calls.

The top EMS responders were Christina Meadows with 125 calls; Rebekah Jewett, 108; Casey Cameron, 54; Nolan Gallion Jr., 50; Stephanie Gallion, 49; Martin Chidsey, 48; Jessica Morawski, 44; Rachel Itzoe, 38; Chris Morawski, 33 and Chip Steininger, 31 calls.

The top auxiliary members were Karen Lopes with 44 functions; Linda Ely, 44, Alice Peterson, 43; Diana Caudill, 40; Denise Caudill, 35; Mary Broadwater, 32; Michelle Williamson, 31; Sharon Cockerham, 30; Michele Jewett, 29; Sandra Gallion, 28; Debbie Burkins, 28 and Karen Jobes, 24 functions.

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