Regina Anand, 8, from Marshall, tries on an oxygen tank with fireman John Ashbaugh during a tour of the station. Regina donated the money she received at her first communion party to the Marshall Township Volunteer Fire Department.
By Jill Cueni-Cohen
When the Anand family in Marshall hosted a first communion party for daughter Regina, 8, the volunteer fire department was called -- to be guests.
The firefighters arrived in their trucks with presents such as a teddy bear wearing a helmet and jacket and a robot, Freddie the Fire Truck.
"They were really nice," Regina said of her special guests.
Regina had requested on the invitations to her party that all gifts be donations to the fire department and her 200 guests complied. On Tuesday evening, she presented $1,400 in donations from her party to the fire department at their meeting in the fire station on Northgate Drive.
With the station just off of Interstate 79 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the department averages 300 calls a year -- the majority of which involve traffic accidents, said John Ashbaugh, volunteer firefighter and member of the department's board of directors.
"A lot of what we do is vehicle rescue," Mr. Ashbaugh said. "We also deal with high-water alarms, trees down, smoke alarms, fires, and we've gotten dogs out of swimming pools in the middle of winter."
The Anand family is appreciative of the fire department's dedication.
"You're unlikely to think about them until you need them," said Regina's mother, Anita.
Along with her husband, Herm, the couple is raising their four children to honor people who volunteer to help others when they need it the most.
And their actions speak as loudly as their words.
Mr. Ashbaugh said when the Anands held a communion party in 2009 for Regina's older twin brothers, they requested that all gifts go to the fire company. The donation totaled $1,800.
Mrs. Anand said: "In our home, First Holy Communion is an extremely significant event. They are receiving Jesus for the very first time. It's the consecrated bread and wine, which is holy and becomes the body and blood of Christ. First Holy Communion is one of the sacraments of initiation into full participation and activity into the church. Baptism is the first, and usually happens just after birth; Holy Communion is when they're 8 and Confirmation is in eighth or ninth grade."
"It's a great thing they've done," said Mr. Ashbaugh, adding that he is blown away by the family's gesture. "I call them 'friends of the fire company.' They've seen this as a need and made this donation. To have this kind of support from members of the community is unusual. We're very appreciative and would like them to be recognized for what they're doing."
However, the Anands see it the other way around.
"I want to say thank you to them," said Regina, who was given the choice of where to donate her communion money.
"We talked about the ambulance, police and fire departments, but the police and ambulance men get paid, and the firemen don't, and that's the main reason why she chose them," explained Mrs. Anand. "It's to honor the fact that the firemen are volunteers. We are a homeschooling family, and they have provided fire safety programming to homeschooling families in this area. We are teaching our kids to understand what it means that they're a volunteer fire company."
Mr. Ashbaugh said that the money will go into the department's general fund. "Running a fire department is a very expensive operation," he noted, adding that the department's annual budget is approximately $110,000.
He said it costs an average of $2,000 for protective clothing for firefighters and a compressed foam truck -- the most recent vehicle purchased by the department -- cost about $450,000.
"We apply for every grant we possibly can, hold a fund drive once a year, and the township is a tremendous support for us as well," Mr. Ashbaugh said.
Regina said she thinks that volunteering is one of the most important things a person can do.
"I think we should all learn to be like [the volunteer firefighters]. They try to help others, without looking to be paid, because it's the right thing to do," she said. "They are doing the work that God asks us to do."