A Holiday Thank You For Those Who Protect Us

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Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

It’s not just this time of year, but all year round, that we are thankful for the men and women who protect us,” Jamestown’s Mayor Sam Teresi told the Jamestown Gazette recently, “whether it be those who protect and defend us here at home, or those who fight for us abroad to retain our rights and freedoms.”

In a thriving city of more than 30,000 people, a few hundred brave and dedicated citizens – police, firefighters, emergency medical workers, civilian and military first responders of every kind – stand watch for their communities 24 hours of every day. The same is true in every town, village and hamlet in Chautauqua County. Thank You to all who serve and protect.

Susan Rowley Blue Star Mothers President & Mom
Susan Rowley
Blue Star Mothers
President & Mom

Taking Action
“The reason most people do what they do here is not very complicated,” said Jamestown Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Chet Harvey. “They just like helping people and their communities. They are very giving people, men and women who like to take action. They are the doers.”

“The holidays can be a bad time for the fire department,” Deputy Chief Harvey said, citing the hazards of unattended candles, overloaded extension cords, combustible wrappings and decorations, busy kitchens and more. “Every firefighter knows he has a 50 percent chance of working on Christmas,” he added, “but they learn to adjust to it pretty well. They simply celebrate on another day with their families so they can stand guard for the rest of us.”

“Their families and friends share in those sacrifices and fear for the safety of their loved ones every day,” Mayor Teresi added in expressing his thanks.

All 49 Jamestown firefighters are also certified in emergency medical care. According to one firefighter, “We’re not just ‘smoke eaters’ any more. Emergencies are complicated and we’re there to help.”

“The police are very busy, too. They’ve had a very tough year,” Harvey said in support of his colleagues in public service. “We really appreciate all the support we get from our community,” said Jamestown Police Officer John Rader, with the Domestic Violence Investigation Unit. “The response to our anonymous tip line, for example, has been tremendous, with more than 50 calls and tips coming in every week. Local citizens are an important part of protecting our community.”

Todd Hanson Blue Star Mothers volunteer Dad
Todd Hanson
Blue Star Mothers
volunteer Dad

 

Disaster Action Teams
“We’re here to work with fire and police and EMT services 24/7,” said Scott Anderson, representing a renewed American Red Cross management presence in Jamestown. Anderson, a Jamestown resident, is the Disaster Program Specialist for Western & Central New York who assumed his new post in Jamestown at the end of November.

Anderson offered a 5-page list of Red Cross volunteers in the WNY region, including 17 in Chautauqua County alone, to show that local citizens are committed to serving both neighbors and strangers alike. “On the worst day in somebody’s life, in fire, flood or storm, we will be there,” he said. That is the Red Cross 24/7 promise. “Here in our community, I’m thankful for those men and women, now and every day,” Mayor Teresi said.

“We are prepared to respond,” Anderson promised, citing an upcoming Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, for example, slated for Wednesday of this week, December 7. “Our goal is to begin by preventing 25 percent of home fires and disasters. On Wednesday we will be installing carbon monoxide, gas and smoke detectors and setting up home evacuation plans at seven houses in Jamestown.” And to everyone else, Anderson advises, “Let’s prepare for another WNY winter. Make sure you’re ready, but we’ll be here if you need us.”

Anderson brings to the Jamestown Red Cross office 33 years of experience as an Army National Guard Operations Sgt Major, including one deployment to Afghanistan, and now retired to offer his service to his community.

For more information or to become a Red Cross volunteer or to donate blood (every Thursday, 12:30 to 5:30) visit the Jamestown office at 325 E 4th St. or call 664-5115, or the WNY Chapter at 886-7500.

Ayla Bragg Blue Star Mothers volunteer Sister
Ayla Bragg
Blue Star Mothers
volunteer Sister

Wheels and Wings
It’s never fun or easy to leave your family during the holiday season,” said Phil Wilson, clinical operations manager at Alstar EMS, “but our folks do it. We never shut down because people need us. We recognize that and we thank our staff for being here to serve the community rather than being home. It’s a giving spirit that draws people to want to do this. For most of our folks, that is simply their makeup.”

“Sure, it’s their job,” Mayor Teresi said, including commercial community services like Alstar in his statement, “but police officers, firefighters, rescue personnel, military personnel, and human services workers make many sacrifices above and beyond what money can buy.”

“When we come in after a 911 call, we see you at your worst and you’re asking us to be at our best to make you feel better,” David Thomas, Executive Director at Alstar, said. “Our folks recognize that and, deep down, that’s exactly what they want to do.”

“When a patient just says ‘Thank you’ that means all the world to our guys,” Bob Hawkins, Assistant Operations Manager, said. “Usually on Christmas and New Year the call volume is down a bit, but on a typical day we do about 50 transports to hospitals or places for specialized care.”

Jane Chapman, Blue Star Mother associate member serving in honor of her daughter-in-law in uniform.
Jane Chapman, Blue Star Mother associate member serving in honor of her daughter-in-law in uniform.

Line of Fire
Local residents are more aware than ever of street crime and violence. Police, fire, volunteers and crewmembers of local commercial services like Alstar all report more concern about possibly being in the line of fire. But, according to Wilson, Alstar EMS typically works in the “cold zone” after the threat has been neutralized. “But we are working more and more in what could be called a “warm zone”, he added, “when active shooters or threats may remain a possibility, but we will go in where we need to.”

“We are learning that even a sincere ‘Thank you’ can be wonderful medicine for people who do what our people do,” Wilson said.

To contact Alstar EMS visit 335 E 3rd St, or their operations center at 28 Maple Street in Jamestown, NY, call (716) 664-8319 or log on to http://www.wcaservices.com/.

Cristin Hockenberry with daughters, Lucy and Keter, volunteers filling boxes of love for overseas military.

Cristin Hockenberry with daughters, Lucy and Keter, volunteers filling boxes of love for overseas military.

On the Home Front
“Our whole purpose is to thank those who protect us,” said Blue Star Mothers president, Susan Rowley. “We are the mothers of active-duty soldiers.”

“But we really do also appreciate the people who protect us here at home on our community’s frontlines – our police and firefighters and first responders of every kind. We truly say ‘Thank you’ to them, too. They are as important to us as our men and women deployed to foreign lands.”

Last year, local Blue Star Mothers packed and sent more than 500 “Boxes of Love” to servicemen overseas. The boxes are packed by hand with donated gifts, favorite snacks, cards and notes of appreciation at special gatherings like the one held at the Fluvanna Community Church on Saturday of last week. “Love goes into every one of those boxes,” Rowley said with obvious gratitude for the work going on in the busy workspace around her.

“It’s a really awesome moment when we see what our community is all about. We love one another here and we care about our people. The Jamestown post office has been wonderful to work with, too,” Rowley said. “They come and get the boxes as soon as they are packed and get them sent off the very same day. All the boxes ship at only $15.85 per box. Everything we do is paid for by generous public donations.”

Learn more at bluestarmotherswny.com and bluestarmotherswny.org.

Four-year-old cousins Molly and Quinn Hannon sign cards for the Soldiers on Thanksgiving Day.

Four-year-old cousins Molly and Quinn Hannon sign cards for the Soldiers on Thanksgiving Day.

Give Thanks
Every contact the Jamestown Gazette made with civil authorities, volunteers and commercial organizations who serve and protect the community, especially in times when violence and natural disasters are more common than ever, said plainly and openly that among the greatest rewards for their work was a simple and sincere Thank You from the people they serve. Please join the Jamestown Gazette in that spirit for this holiday season and all year long.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.