Jim Leahy, project chairman of the Fire Truck $50K Challenge & Vice-Chairman of the Orange Board of Finance, sat down with Orange Volunteer Fire Department (OVFD) Leaders Charlie Sherwood & Bert Gallant to get their thoughts on the Orange Community, what the Fire Truck $50K Challenge project means to them, and why they serve on the OVFD. Here are their thoughts.
The Orange Community
Charlie Sherwood: It comes down to our slogan ‘Neighbors helping Neighbors.” It’s a mindset. We are fortunate. In our Town, we do not act like people living within a geographic boundary. We DO things for each other & we feel for each other. It’s been a Town tradition, built on the history of people like Frank Knight, Chris Winkle, John Capacelatro, Ken Mitchell. And many others. They cared for their community. They volunteered their time. And the culture took hold. It became institutionalized into the Community.
Volunteering is an enriching experience in Life. People volunteer their time in this community on things that they are passionate about. OVFD is a good example of Volunteerism in Orange. Yet like “Stars in the Sky” – there are many places people can volunteer: Schools, Church work, reading books to children, spending time with a person with a disability. What I think separates the OVFD is being on call.
Bert Gallant: When People call on us, it’s for a safety need. And it’s 24-7-365. People ask me all the time, “what are your hours?” I tell them “We are on call. All day. Every day. 365 days a Year.” It’s amazing the number of people in Town who don’t know that we are 100% volunteer.
Charlie Sherwood: The OVFD Way: Giving back to the community. Comparing the costs to the benefits, the OVFD is the most cost-effective organization/department in the Town.
“Fire Truck $50k Challenge” Project: Special Moment/What It Means To Me
Charlie Sherwood: Overall, this project meant income. We at the OVFD needed it, given not only the Carnival being cancelled but the cancellation of 4-5 of our major fundraising events due to COVID. The Financial support provided in the $50K Challenge is an example of the Community providing a service back to the OVFD. A little role reversal. In that way, the $50K Challenge is itself a 2020 example of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors”
Bert Gallant: I was going through the checks submitted & I came across this $10 check. And I had this feeling, a 6th sense. I thought to myself “This person – that $10 check—means a very lot to that person.”
So many people contributed, all various sizes of contributions. All these people coming together to support the OVFD. All – each one of them—wanted to be part of the effort. Or people would not have sent a check in.
So that $10 check meant something very special to that person. And as I looked at that check, it felt very real and that $10 check meant as much to me as the very big ones did.
Charlie Sherwood: You know, people don’t spend money on things that don’t mean anything to them. People spend money on things that mean something to them. And all of these people – THE ORANGE ARMY, as we now call them – thought so well of us that they stepped up and contributed. To be part of the OVFD and to be thought of in this way…It’s a privilege really. Rewarding stuff.
OVFD: Why I Serve
Bert Gallant: I Love the Town and the OVFD Department. I love being involved in it. I love the fact that I can contribute something. My OVFD participation has evolved. I started by working as a Volunteer at the Carnival. Currently, my work is more “behind the scenes” tending to the books, the budget process, & serving on Committees. I make a contribution that is noticed & appreciated. And I enjoy the satisfaction that I get from making that contribution. It enriches you, and I am proud to be part of the OVFD organization. So even if you are not an active Fire-Fighter, there are opportunities in the OVFD to contribute & to serve.
Charlie Sherwood: It’s empowering. It’s rewarding. It’s exciting. For example, you get a call in the middle of night, a CO alarm. You go to the house, your neighbor’s house – most often a neighbor unknown at the outset – and you address the matter. You solve the problem. “All is Okay” you tell them. The appreciative words come back “Thank you.” But it’s more. It’s the building of these relationships with the population across the Town of Orange. These are the valuable things in life. And it results – over years & years – in building trust.
Bert Gallant: It’s a culture of giving. It’s a culture of wanting to give. I see it now in Father-Daughter relationships in the OVFD. That we are all in this Together. You know, when on the OVFD it’s the whole family that contributes. You may miss the Turkey on Thanksgiving, or part of a celebration event. So, it’s the whole family that sacrifices when a spouse is out on a call.
It’s Love of Community, a Love of Serving the Community. The whole Town of Orange is like that. For me, that makes it feel like part of a Family.
Charlie Sherwood: If you have a value in yourself for commitment, if you have a value in yourself for helping others, then consider participating in the OVFD & providing emergency service response. I’ve been doing this for over 50 years and it never gets tiring. Or Boring. And it’s a good feeling mentoring younger members and working with past OVFD Chiefs (Fred Knight, Charlie Gagel, John Knight) and the current Chief, Vaughan Dumas, to ensure that the OVFD can help the people of the Town in the future. I would love to know that the OVFD will be serving the community when it reaches “150 years of service.”
As we wind down this project, you can still join the Team. It’s the last chance. Join THE ORANGE ARMY. Become involved in “Fire Truck $50K Challenge.” By doing so, you’ll make a measurable difference.
Every contribution – no matter the size—is valued. The link to the GoFundMe page is on the Town website www.orange-ct.gov or on the OVFD website www.orangevfd.org. Checks can be mailed directly: OVFD, P.O. Box 878, Orange, CT 06477. Thank you.
OVFD Leaders: Charlie Sherwood, Deputy Fire Chief (50+ years) & Bert Gallant, Treasurer (40+ years).