Service and dedication [Editorial]

The Aegis

A special honor was bestowed by the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company during its annual banquet on Saturday, April 7, when it Shirley MacLean received a new award recognizing service and dedication to the fire company’s auxiliary.

Fittingly, the award is named in honor of MacLean, who has been with the auxiliary since its inception in 1950. She and her husband, Donald, have both been mainstays with BAVFD for well more than 60 years.

While it’s never easy to quantify all that community volunteers give of themselves in service to others, the Bel Air community has long flourished because of the contributions of men and women like the MacLeans. This is especially true of folks who serve with the volunteer fire companies that Harford County has depended on for well more than a century to protect lives and property.

In presenting the first Shirley MacLean Award, Susan Eyre, the auxiliary president, said the award was developed to honor a member “who sets a standard for the rest of us to follow.” The annual recipient will be an auxiliary member who shows qualities such as integrity, honesty, moral wholesomeness, reliability and leadership, Eyre said.

“We thought so highly of this person that we named the award after this person,” Eyre said before asking MacLean to come up and accept the award to a standing ovation.

Although more women join volunteer fire companies today with the idea of fighting fires, auxiliaries, which can have female and male members, still provide important support both at fire scenes and back at the firehouse.

It takes many people to keep a volunteer fire company strong and functioning smoothly. And Shirley MacLean has been one of those members the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company and the community it serves have been able to count on to answer the call for nearly six decades.

As the annual winter/spring fire banquet season winds down in Harford County, it’s a good time once again to remind everyone what “volunteer” firefighting means to all of us who live in the county.

Founded in 1890, the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company is the county’s largest and busiest. When the company celebrated its 125th birthday in 2015, leaders said they consistently have 150 active volunteers and 50 life members. The fire company also oversees Harford County’s largest emergency medical services operation with approximately 65 paid EMS personnel.

In 2017, Bel Air VFC handled 2,487 fire calls and 8,105 EMS calls. Harford State Sen. Robert Cassilly, one of the guests at the banquet, put those numbers in perspective, saying they amounted to one call each hour, every 24 hours, every day of the year.

“That’s utterly outstanding, so thank you, each and every one of you, for that,” Cassilly said.

And thanks to folks like Shirley MacLean and all those hundreds and hundreds of volunteers over 128 years for giving of their lives, time and energy to protect our community.

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