When Adam Kester and David Dole answered a call for help to fight a fire in the middle of the night in early November, they were doing what volunteer firefighters do - stepping forward, no hesitation and no holding back, to help a neighbor in dire need.
Now it is our turn to step forward for them.
Kester and Dole were severely injured fighting that fire when a heavy pipe casing fell on them. Both are still in Hamot Medical Center in Erie.
Yes, Panama Volunteer Fire Department has insurance to cover its members' medical expenses and wages if they are hurt. But these two were more than hurt. They will never be the same. They face a long road of rehabilitation and the reality of permanent injury.
They and their families cannot be made whole again, but the community of brothers and sisters in the fire service have been working to at least ease the way.
A benefit dinner and auction is slated for Monday hosted by the Chautauqua Lake Auction Center and Banquet Facility, located at the former Ashville Fire Department Training Center, 2118 Magnolia Ave., Ashville.
This major fundraiser dinner will start at 4:30 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m., with the auction starting at 6:30 p.m.
You can make arrangements to drop off items for the dinner or the auction by contacting Judy Wroda at 526-4230. Tickets can be purchased from Ms. Wroda, as well as Marsha Vergith and Julie Reynolds, who are associated with the Ashville Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary. If there are tickets remaining, they will be available at the door. Tickets are $10 each for the dinner.
Jim and Judy Wroda also note that Kester has five children, all girls. The Wrodas are asking the community to help ensure they have a nice Christmas by bringing small gift items to their auction facility on or before Monday. Two of the girls are almost 10 years old, and the others are 8, 7 and 3 years old. They wear sizes 10-12, 7-8, 6-7 and 3-4 clothes.
The Wrodas and all of the others involved in planning the dinner and auction are hoping to serve at least 200 meals. They note that the items to be auctioned off can be viewed starting at 2 p.m. Monday.
Dole is a 19-year veteran of the Panama Fire Department. Kester has spent 11 years in the fire service.
As Panama Assistant Fire Chief Vernon Sheldon Jr. put it, both men had jobs and other responsibilities. The work they did for their community as firefighters was done purely as volunteers.
It is time for the community to step forward for them now, no hesitation and no holding back.