At a banquet, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Union Bridge Fire Company celebrated the 80 years since its founding in 1939.
Some of those members have been part of the group for more than half of that history and were recognized for more than 50 years of service.
Others took note of the anniversary, too.
Del. Haven Shoemaker bought a citation from the delegation in Annapolis, and Commissioner Eric Bouchet brought one from the Board of County Commissioners, while Mayor Perry Jones recognized them on behalf of the town of Union Bridge.
The banquet is held about every five years, and the auxiliary also takes time to recognize and remember those that have died.
The auxiliary’s membership does not look the same it did 80 years ago, when membership was almost exclusively women whose husbands were in the fire company.
Nowadays, any community member who wants to help can join — including men.
The majority of the auxiliary members are also members of the fire company, though not necessarily trained to ride out on engines or provide emergency medical response. Several members of the fire company are honorary members of the auxiliary from giving so many volunteer hours.
Every year, the organization’s historian keeps track of the events and fundraisers that go on, then the book goes to county historian with the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association.
Jones, who is also a longtime member of the fire company, said the banquet was a nice recognition of how the auxiliary has helped over the years with volunteer hours and monetary donations.
The funds they raise have gone toward a utility truck, equipment upgrades for the rescue squad and other needed items.
To equip one firefighter with the equipment they wear on emergency calls costs about $1,100 or $1,200, Jones said.
Auxiliary President Missi Green, has been an auxiliary member for about 25 years. Her family is very involved with the fire company; she is vice president of the fire company and her husband Chad Green is the fire chief.
One of the proudest moments she remembers is when the auxiliary was able to purchase a utility truck for the fire company and have it painted with company logos.
Some of the most important fundraisers they host are centered on food and they require lots of volunteer hours, Green said.
Twice a year, the auxiliary gears up for its slippery chicken pot pie dinner — so named because it doesn’t have a crust. The chicken makes a hearty broth and cooks add potatoes and homemade dough noodles.
To get ready for the dinner — held this year on Sunday, April 28 — they ordered 35 whole chickens, which they bring to the fire hall Saturday morning to begin cooking. Then, more volunteers come to take the meat off the bones for the soup, peel potatoes and set up the hall for the dinner.
The dough for the noodles is made Sunday morning. To get ready for the 7 p.m. event, volunteers start rolling in at about noon.
“Everything's done fresh, right there at the fire hall,” Green said. “There’s a lot to do.”
They have a similar tradition with apple dumplings in the fall, when they sell upwards of 300 dumplings, Green estimates.
Soon, everyone will switches gears to carnival season. The annual carnival, the fire company’s biggest fundraiser, starts Memorial Day and runs all week.
The phrase that comes up the most while talking to auxiliary and fire company members is “all hands on deck.”
The auxiliary holds down the lunches every day and staffs with volunteers.
Green said that in her years at the auxiliary, she has seen changes. They are similar to the ones that face other service organizations and fire companies looking for volunteers.
“I mean, when I first joined, we had a ton of members. And now, we might have 11 active members. We did bingo the other night with eight people. So we had four in the kitchen and four on the floor out selling. And it was hard. It's hard to have any kind of big fundraiser if you don't have the help, she said.”
In addition to the traditions, they try to plan new events to draw in new people to fundraisers. In October they’ll host their first gun bingo.
“We're going to give it a try and see what happens. You’ve gotta try some new stuff. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Green said.
The auxiliary would happily accept new members and event volunteers who can email Green at MissiUBFCLA@aol.com.