They are the volunteers who respond in the dead of the night when a fire breaks out. Or a senior takes a fall. Or a car plunges into a ditch. They give up their sleep, their weekends and their comfort to keep the rest of us safe.
Most people don’t give the town’s volunteer firefighters and ambulance corps members a second thought until they need to dial 911. But a group of Girl Scouts from Chappaqua Troop 1029 is trying to change all that. In 2014, the troop created an annual event to honor the town’s volunteer first responders with baked goods, banners, drawings and expressions of gratitude.
Now in its sixth year, the event, called, “Thank a Volunteer First Responder Day,” is held every year on the day after Memorial Day. This year, that date falls on Tuesday, May 28th. That evening, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., the Chappaqua Fire Department, the Millwood Fire Department and the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps will open their doors to the community.
“It’s a great event,” says Greg Santone, Chiefs’ Aid of the Millwood Fire Department. “Our members look forward to it every year. It’s especially gratifying to see all the little kids bringing their drawings and climbing all over the rigs. And we love giving families a better idea of what we do.”
The idea for this annual event started in 2014 when Troop 1029’s members were in fifth grade and looking for a project they could do to earn their Bronze Award—the third-highest community service award in Girl Scouting. “Our troop is always looking for ways to give back to the town,” notes Elizabeth Kasulka, parent co-leader of the troop. “Chappaqua Girl Scouts already deliver cookies to every veteran in New Castle on Veteran’s Day. We thought it might be nice to extend the same appreciation to our town’s volunteer first responders.”
That first year, the members of Troop 1029 pasted flyers in all the shop windows announcing the event. They set up a booth at the Chappaqua School Foundation’s annual Harlem Wizard’s basketball game and had community members sign posters of appreciation. They made banners and collected drawings from younger troops. More than a dozen scout troops showed up at that first event, as well as many other families from the community. “The troops brought all these delicious baked goods,” says Kate Clough, lieutenant of the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps. “We have a high school volunteer unit and the snacks really went over well with the teenagers.”
Thanks to the success of the first “Thank a Volunteer First Responder Day,” the troop petitioned the New Castle town board to make the day an annual event. Town Supervisor, Robert Greenstein, designed a banner that is displayed every May at the triangle coming into Chappaqua. “It’s nice that the event is right after Memorial Day,” says Greenstein. “It’s a reminder that our volunteers are much more than people who march in a parade. They’re there when you really need them.”
Every year, the event has grown in size–just as the girls have grown. The current troop members–Erica Dunne, Charlotte Harrison, Stephanie Kasulka, Lauren Schmutz, Emma Terjesen and Eileen Trotta–are now in tenth grade and hope to pass on the tradition to a younger Chappaqua Girl Scout troop in two years when they graduate high school.
“It’s refreshing to be recognized by younger people in the community,” says Russell Maitland, First Assistant Chief of the Chappaqua Fire Department. “Their understanding of the services we provide is the first step for them to become our future first responders.”
Community members are invited to join Chappaqua Girl Scout troop 1029 on Tuesday evening, May 28th, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Chappaqua Fire Department, the Millwood Fire Department or the Chappaqua Ambulance Corps to show their appreciation for the volunteers.