The large bays of the apparatus floor of the Station 35 of the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department didn’t have fire engines parked inside.
Tables topped with red table cloths were parked there instead. That’s because the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department hosted its First Annual Installation & Awards Banquet on Friday, February 8, 2019. It was an evening filled with award presentations, door prizes and a full-on spaghetti dinner complete with deserts for members of the department, families, and guests.
Just as Chief Benningfield was about to ask everyone to take their seats, a loud alert tone blared across the bays followed by a 911 dispatcher’s voice directing the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department Medics to a person in distress. The ambulance’s siren sounded as it left the front of the station outside, and the evening got underway inside.
From the comments praising his department’s volunteers, it was apparent Chief Tim Benningfield cares deeply for not only the department members but also their families. “We’re all family here, all of us,” Chief Benningfield said during his opening remarks. Continuing, “Tonight, I would like to highlight two things, focus on the family and secondly, to say thank you to all of you and recognize the dedication you all have shown the department.”
That theme played out the remainder of the evening. At one point, Chief Benningfield asked all the male members of the department in attendance come forward to the podium.
He then gave each of them a single stem red rose, “I don’t have to tell you what to do with this do I?” he quipped, getting a round of applause and laughter. As the guys headed back to their tables to give the rose to their significant other, the gesture was repeated with the female members as well.
During the program, Chief Benningfield provided a short recap of the year. During his comments, he related, “The Department of Labor calculates volunteer hours at $27.00 per hour. This department had 65,000 volunteer hours. Don’t worry. I did the math for you,” he said with a big smile. “That calculates close to 1.6 million dollars we have saved our community.” The audience exploded into applause. Additionally, he stated, the department had 950 responses, 65% of those were medical related.
As the evening events were altered a bit to await the return of the ambulance crew, door prizes were given, and dinner was served. If anyone left hungry, it was their fault.
Much to the delight of the crowd, one of the events for a prize was a game of “Heads or Tails.”
Everyone in the room stood up. A department challenge coin was flipped. If the person thought the coin flip was going to be heads, they put both hands on their head. If they thought it would be tails, they put both hands on their behind. If they guessed wrong, they were out and sat down. The game continued until two firefighters were remaining. The coin was then handed over to former legislator Bill Stoltze for the final flip of the coin.
After the coin bounced on the table and flipped for the last time, Mr. Stoltze called out, “Heads it is.” The last man standing was none other than Chief Benningfield.
Award recipients for the evening were:
- Junior Firefighter of the Year– Makinzee Kroeker
- Rookie of the Year– Will Ducham
- EMS Provider of the Year– Lisa Ingulli
- Firefighter of the Year– Kit McCutcheon
- Company Officer of the Year– Zach Sullivan
- Member of the Year– Molly Swanson
A Community Support Award was presented to Hilltop Recycling.
Length of Service awards:
- 5 years of Service presented to Lisa Ingulli and Cobie French
- 10 Years of Service presented to Sven Hall
- 15 Years of Service presented to John Della Croce
- 20 Years of Service has been completed by Mark Roberts and Ash Lauer
Forty-seven members received the Meritorious Service Award for efforts during the November 30th Earthquake.
Chaplain Mark Roberts was presented a brick at the National Firefighters Association (NFA) for 20 years of service in addition to having Life-Membership bestowed.