Chester Gap: Going strong at 50

The Chester Gap Fire & Rescue Department celebrated its 50th anniversary this past Saturday evening. The department had been working very hard for several months to ensure that it would be a special night, and the only concern was how much of a turnout from the community to expect, what with the cold and possibly wet weather that was forecast.

Annual awards, from left: President Chris Ubben accepting on behalf of Lloyd and Odessa Campbell for Most Supportive from the Community; Chief Clinton Wines for Firefighter of the Year; Maybelle Gilkey for Most Supportive from the Department; and Brandon Phillips, EMS Person of the Year.

I’m very proud to say that the community did not disappoint, as the banquet hall was packed! There were scant few chairs left and most members ate standing up in the kitchen. The community’s support is the lifeblood of the department, and it was flowing mighty strong.

This being the 50th anniversary, many awards were presented with special recognition being given to the Founding and Lifetime members who either started the department back in 1960 or have devoted at least 20 years of service. Present from that group and receiving awards were Russell Leo Williams, Ermand Morris, Hubert S. Gilkey III, George Joe Williams, Earl Williams, and Thomas Leake. All of these fine gentlemen have contributed greatly over the years to the success and growth of the department.

Annual awards were also presented that night for service rendered in 2009 to the department. Receiving the award for Most Supportive from the Community were the late Lloyd and Odessa Campbell. As it was later found while researching department records that Lloyd had actually been a member as well, it was very fitting that he was honored for his generosity and charity to his community.

Standing, from left: Thomas Leake, Hubert S. Gilkey, Earl Williams, Ermand Morris and George Williams, with Russell Leo Williams seated in front.

Receiving the award for Most Supportive Member of the Department was Maybelle Gilkey, who not only serves in her indispensable role as the treasurer but has been a part of the department since its founding. Maybelle is a very dedicated member who works very hard to see that the department succeeds and, in the words of the department’s president, “We would not be where we are without her!”

Receiving the award for EMS Person of the Year was Brandon Phillips, who currently serves as fire lieutenant. Brandon is devoted to the service of the department and puts in many long hours to ensure that those who call for help get it each and every time. Receiving Firefighter of the Year was Fire Chief Clinton Wines. Clint puts in many, many hours each week, and a more dedicated member you’d be hard pressed to find.

The food as always was excellent and there was plenty of it to go around. Everyone had more than enough to eat and if you left hungry it was your own fault! Speaking of the food a huge thank-you is owed to department members Maybelle Gilkey, Stephanie Crawford, Tabetha Swain, Amanda Crawford and Brandon Phillips as well as community members Mary Williams and Caroline Leake, who made and helped serve food and drinks. These folks were directly responsible for making this event such a success.

It was a wonderful night of fellowship and sharing stories of the old days, and a chance to honor heroes – whether they served 50 years ago, for the past 20 years or just joined. Events like this are times when, at least for me, the uniqueness of where I’m blessed to live and just how special it is really hits home. I’m very, very proud to be a part of this community and department and look to the future with confidence, knowing that with such a strong foundation this department and community will continue to grow and strengthen for many years to come.