Dominicans receive Somerset fire gear with gratitude
Officials of Santo Domingo ¿ including the mayor ¿ along with firemen and Rotarians of the Dominican Republic officially receive firefighting gear contributed by fire departments in Somerset County and Richland Township. The Somerset Rotary Club arranged for the collection and shipment. (Submitted photo / May 14, 2012)
The gear, with a replacement value estimated at $300,000, was shipped earlier this spring.
“These devices significantly elevate the quality of our service,” Santo Domingo Mayor Juan de los Santos said at a large gathering of city officials and members of the Rotary Club.
Hundreds of pieces of equipment were neatly displayed under a huge tent.
Fire Brigade Chief Col. Javier Bueno noted that nearly all the equipment arrived in first-class condition. Still to be shipped to the Dominican Republic are two fire trucks and an ambulance. The U. S. military conducts such transport for charitable purposes.
The big fire-equipment project was the brainchild of Somerset Rotarian Rita Halverson. She noticed the need while in Santo Domingo on a work project with her husband Ken.
“They had nothing like what our firemen have,” Rita Halverson said. “They used garden gloves and the kind of ladders you have at your house.”
Last fall she assigned members of the club to seek donations of good equipment no longer needed from 30 fire companies in Somerset County. Government and insurance regulations require Pennsylvania companies to upgrade their gear regularly. But the old gear was too good to throw away.
“What we sent included equipment that kept me safe when I was fighting fires 30 years ago,” said G. Henry Cook, a Rotarian, president of the Somerset Volunteer Fire Department, and president and CEO of Somerset Trust Co.
He was high in praise of Halverson for her vision in creating “one of the greatest projects in the history of the Somerset club.”
“It’s made me very proud to be part of Rotary International. I don’t know of a finer project than to collect firefighting gear for people who don’t have it. It is so important to keep those firemen safe.”
Cook said it’s remarkable for a little rural club, which also was a major participant in the Rotary campaign to eradicate polio, to reach out around the world.
“It’s what Rotary is supposed to do,” he said, to connect the dots, connect people, really. Our Somerset County firemen have connected with people they will never meet. Yet we have warm feelings about helping, and the people we helped will never forget us.”