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Firefighters, EMTs honored

AULANDER – Just take a look at them now.

In September of last year, the Aulander Ruritan Club, if identified in medical terms, was on life support. Founded in 1938, the club had been at the forefront of the development of this small Bertie County community, but, over the years, its membership had eroded to the point where only seven able-bodied persons remained.

Thanks to an all-out recruiting blitz plus some innovative thinking, the club now boasts of a membership listed at 42 strong. And not only has there been an increase in manpower, but community service projects as well.

Case in point was this past Saturday evening at the Aulander Community Building where a near-capacity crowd was treated to a Fire and Emergency Services Banquet hosted by the local Ruritans. The club members honored ranking officers with the Aulander Volunteer Fire Department, Millennium Volunteer Fire Department and the Aulander Rescue Squad.

“Thank-you for what you provide to the communities of Aulander and Millennium,” Ruritan Club Vice-President Wayne Smith said following a delicious meal featuring lip-smacking barbecued chicken. “Firefighters and EMTs make life-saving decisions in the blink of an eye. Your accomplishments are no small task.”

Smith praised the firefighters and EMTs for volunteering their time and efforts.

“We honor those who unselfishly risk their own life to help those within their communities,” he said. “The dangers they face are ever-present, but yet they continue to perform selfless acts of heroism. You are our heroes. You are there when needed and the Aulander Ruritan Club honors you tonight.”

Each of the ranking officers within the three emergency response departments were summoned to the podium area. There, Ruritan officials handed firefighters/EMT badges to the wives or significant others of the officers who performed the honoring of pinning their loved ones with the shiny gold lapel emblems.

To further honor the firefighters, three local men were awarded plaques in recognition of their respective 20-plus years of service. Edward Lee Lassiter (Millennium VFD), Donnie Conner and Tim Ingram, both of the Aulander VFD, were honored.

Millennium fireman Keith Lassiter was also honored, awarded the Ruritan Medal of Courage and a plaque in recognition of his heroic deeds. On March 29, Lassiter was en route to Hertford County High School when he happened upon a motor vehicle accident involving an overturned school bus full of children. Lassiter boarded the bus through the back door and began to immediately offer aid until EMS personnel arrived.

April Lassiter, Keith’s mother, proudly pinned the Medal of Courage on her son while his father, Bill, awarded the plaque.

In another demonstration of their admiration of the firefighters and EMTs, the Aulander Ruritans presented framed copies of the Fireman’s Prayer and EMS Prayer to each respective department.

In attendance at Saturday’s banquet were two high-ranking members of the national Ruritan organization n K.D. Hicks, past National Director, and Frank Guthrie, past National President. Both Chesapeake, Va. men praised the Aulander Ruritans for working to make their community better.

“When I came here a while back, this club was below 10 members,” Guthrie said. “But due to a lot of hard work and dedication, just look at them now. They have made this community a better place to live, work and play.”

Hicks continued to heap on the praise by saying, “What you see here tonight is what Ruritan is all about.”

Aulander Ruritan Club President Jimmy Barmer presided over the event. He was joined at the podium by fellow Ruritan Larry Drew who outlined several projects the club is currently involved in, including the restoration of the old Aulander ballpark and gym.

“Through the years, God has blessed us with the strength to make our community a better place to live,” Drew said. “We feel this club has ignited a spark within our community.”