PVFD rolls out red carpet

Published 9:26 am Tuesday, May 26, 2009

POWELLSVILLE – Small towns and big cities that dot the nation’s map add to their fleet of emergency response vehicles throughout the year.

Perhaps none host a celebration to welcome new equipment like the one witnessed Saturday in the tiny Bertie County hamlet of Powellsville.

With a crowd of roughly 200 standing proudly under a hot, mid-afternoon sun, the Powellsville Volunteer Fire Department (PVFD) welcomed Truck #5214 – a 2009 Tradition ES Commercial Pumper that the department won last month in a national contest.

With PVFD Chief David Powell behind the wheel, the big, red rig rolled to a stop in front of the fire department where hundreds of invited guests gathered around the $185,000 truck for an up close look. Some, especially the children, climbed into the cab while proud parents snapped photos. Men gathered at the front of the truck, peering under the hood while exchanging “shop talk” about the vehicle’s powerful engine.

“This is what it’s all about…the people of this community,” Powell said. “That’s why we do what we do, to protect and serve the citizens living in our fire district. This new truck adds to our capability to get the job done.”

Later, Powell stood on a makeshift stage to welcome the guests. There, with his voice full of emotion, he spoke of those who have gone on to a better place while leaving a legacy for the current PVFD members to carry on.

“Over the past few years we’ve lost mothers, fathers, friends and family,” Powell said, choking back the tears. “Johnny Ray has got’em all in a group and you can bet your bottom dollar they’re all up there watching.”

In particular, Powell was making reference to Johnny Ray, PVFD’s longtime secretary who succumbed in June of last year.

Following an invocation by PVFD member Merrill Waters, Powellsville fireman Ernie Carter welcomed the special guests, including Powellsville Mayor Thomas Asbell, Bertie County Commissioners Wallace Perry and Charles Smith, Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb, PVFD founding chief Buck Carter and Ahoskie Fire Chief Ken Dilday.

A warm welcome was also extended to officials with E-One, the Ocala, Florida firm that sponsored the national contest and built the truck now owned by PVFD. In attendance from E-One were George Logan, Vice-President of Dealer Operations, and Suzanne Aldana, Executive Assistant to CEO Peter Guile.

“This truck, it’s a blessing bestowed by E-One on our fire department and our community and we thank them for that,” Carter said.

“These are some of the finest people we at E-One have ever met,” Logan noted, referencing the dedicated members of the PVFD. “It’s the small town, rural fire departments all across our nation that our company wanted to reach out and help, thus the idea of our contest.”

Also recognized were the ownership, employees and family members of Fire Connections, Inc., a Rocky Mount firm that is an E-One dealer and also specializes in maintenance of emergency response vehicles.

In attendance were Travis, Kristy and Caley Mayo, Earl Satterfield, Brian Brumbles, Trey and Ashley Daughtridge, Ken Proctor, Tommy and Mary Grace Daughtridge, Chris, Barbara and Daniel Glasic, Scott Kratovil and Ronald Inge.

“The guys here at the Powellsville Fire Department are some of the best I’ve ever met,” Travis Mayo said. “We’ve been in constant contact with them since the national winner was announced back in April. We, along with a lot of firefighters across North Carolina, supported Powellsville’s efforts to win this truck and we congratulate you.”

In gratitude, Powell and Assistant PVVD Chief Ralph Brinkley, speaking on behalf of the firemen, presented a framed letter of thanks and a framed photo collection showing PVFD vehicles from past to present to Logan.

Returning the favor, Logan presented the PVFD a framed photo of the Powellsville truck after completion at the Ocala assembly plant. The photo was autographed by all E-One employees that worked on the truck.

Saturday’s celebration contained one additional twist as PVFD members used the occasion to dedicate its meeting room at the fire house in memory of Johnny Ray. A plaque above the door leading into the room was unveiled by Ray’s widow, Recie; daughter, Melissa, and other family members.

The plaque was designed by Johnny Bristow, the son of PVFD member Bobby Bristow and PVFD Auxiliary member Linda Bristow.

During the salute of Johnny Ray, Brinkley offered these thoughts about his late friend…“We don’t know how JR did what he did all those years. It has taken four of us to try and fill his shoes.”

Also recognized on Saturday was Dr. Cheryl Powell, a Powellsville veterinarian who is the wife of PVFD Chief David Powell. It was due to Dr. Powell’s efforts that PVFD was entered into the national contest. She, with the help of Ernie Evans, penned the PVFD story that appeared on the E-One website during the voting process. Because of her foresight, the new truck features a simple, “Thanks Dr. Cheryl” written in gold lettering on the hood.

“If it wasn’t for Cheryl Powell, we wouldn’t have this new truck,” Evans stressed.

Prior to a pig pickin’ meal served to the crowd, Rev. Tommy Kiker, pastor of Center Grove Baptist Church, offered perhaps the best reason why PVFD emerged victorious in the national contest.

“I’m a firm believer in that you reap what you sow,” Rev. Kiker stated before blessing the meal. “With this beautiful truck sitting here before us, these hard-working Powellsville volunteers are seeing the fruits of their many years of labor to this community.”

During the months of March and April, E-One, a leading manufacturer of first responder vehicles, conducted its “Tell Us Your Story” contest. Of 640 entries, PVFD along with six other fire departments from coast-to-coast were chosen as the finalists.

An online voting process ensued, one from which PVFD was the winner by a landslide. David Powell, Dr. Powell and Brinkley were in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 24 where the formal announcement was made of the winner during an emergency responder’s trade show and training workshops.

PVFD was in dire need of a new truck. The last new vehicle purchased by the department is a 1972 model, which until Saturday’s arrival of the new truck, was their “first-out” pumper.

Earlier on Saturday, the new truck was on display at Ace Hardware of Ahoskie. There, PVFD members grilled hot dogs for a large crowd of curious spectators.