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They dreamed the impossible dream and now the Shallotte Point Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, incorporated on April 26, 1979, proudly celebrates the fruition of that vision.
It was not an easy task, but it was worthwhile. Their story does not end today. It continues as an ongoing march into the future of this corner of the world. It remains both dream and reality. It is the stuff of dedication, loyalty and undaunted determination.
If it were not a motto already held by the Marines, the members of the department could easily state they are on the scene before all others. Their water hoses shoot the first blast of extinguishing liquid on the flames they meet. They take the first hit at drowning out any remaining embers. They never leave anyone behind until they are certain all danger has passed. They are the few, the proud, the firefighters, auxiliary and board members of Engine Company Number 15.
Like all good things, this one didn’t happen without the capacity to dream ceaselessly and to follow that dream resolutely. Nor was it simply the action of a few hardy souls. The homeowners of the Shallotte Point area were canvassed to ascertain their desire for a fire department in their district and their willingness to support the venture, should it become an actuality.
Overwhelmingly, the response was affirmative. The community was a positive presence at the start. The community continues to be at the heart of this department. Some names presently on the roster indicate families who have been there since the beginning. Their loyalty and desire to serve is admirable.
So began a long, hard journey and a wonderful story. Land was acquired, thanks to the generosity of the Ermon Williams family. A building was constructed with the financial assistance of 10 men who donated $100 each, no small sum at that time and for those folks. A charter for the corporation was developed and a department was formed.
Twenty-eight members were indicated as the first valid members. Among those members, two have continued to this day: Joe Pigott and Mike Potts. The present chief, Buddy Causey, is the son of another originator. Yet another generation of that family is represented, as grandson Jimmie Causey is also a firefighter with the department. This longevity witnesses a degree of loyalty and commitment that is rarely seen in today’s society.
Having come lately to this place, at least in the long view of generational living visible in this area, I am honored and delighted to be accepted as one of the crew and a viable member of the board of directors.
I listen to the colorful tales of years gone by and heed the angst expressed that some of the simplicity has been lost. No longer is there a group of women who rise at the crack of dawn to provide food for the firefighters upon their return from a mission. Nor are they around to make biscuits and pastries from scratch, laboring long and hard creating foodstuffs for sale to raise money for the firehouse coffers.
Theirs was a singular goal and they’d not be deterred by fatigue or personal cost. They did not seek thanks, but perceived and accepted gratitude in the success of their efforts.
There were some colorful tales amidst the steadfast plugging away at the tasks. One, publicly recorded, told of a department member whose fundraising efforts at a shark tournament included loudly played music for dancing. Granted his fiery temperament, when the deputy sheriff told him to tone it down he responded that he was conducting a community event. He would not comply with the request, choosing his own arrest for disturbing the peace rather than to arrest his activity. However misplaced, his commitment cannot be denied. In fact, he was also responsible for the purchase of the first engine, one previously used by the Chadbourne Fire Department. Without a firehouse to protect it, the engine was kept at Bennie Yearta Sr.’s residence on Copas Road.
Less overt but no less dedicated, the members of the Shallotte Point Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary gave elbow grease a new meaning. Their first cookout at the Tripp residence on Village Point Road gained a whopping $2,500. From then on, they slogged away at annual flounder tournaments, standing for hours in a steamy kitchen, “meal-ing” flounder and dipping cornmeal nuggets into hot oil, transforming them into delicious hush puppies.
They ran bake sales and helped firefighters with turkey shoots. They stood on street corners; bucket in hand, seeking donations. Most importantly, the tasks were undertaken without complaint and done with visible joy. This was a community department, a group that made Shallotte Point stand straight with pride.
Their uniqueness is evidenced in the proud statement, “Most fire departments have a Dalmatian as a mascot. We can’t afford that luxury. We have Embers, a sooty black fire department cat!”
As the years rolled by, illness and death diminished the original ranks of volunteers. New folks joined to carry on the tradition. Age also took its toll on the engines, each one replaced by a newer and more efficient model. Insurance ratings were raised; volunteer firefighters were joined by paid personnel—full and part-time.
Change was and is inevitable, but the profound loyalty and pride exhibited by the old-timers is no less evident today. Southern drawl is matched with Yankee accents. Retirees work hand-in-hand with youngsters. Board members include retired firefighters from other states.
What remains a consistent goal and mission, a formidable force, is their sense of responsibility to the community. More than a fiscal duty, it is a promise of fidelity and reliability given wholeheartedly to the community. Personal gain is never the issue. Public service is always at the core of their decision-making.
These are not simply words of praise for hard-working men and women. The words are also an invitation to come and see for yourself what is happening at the firehouse.
The Shallotte Point Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and auxiliary are planning an open house from 1-3 p.m. July 24. All are invited to come and celebrate the accomplishments the department has achieved, especially in the past year. The new fire engine will be there for you to see. Light refreshments will be served. Special guests include the charter members of the organization, local fire chiefs, and residents of Shallotte Point.
There is but one request: “Come and support your fire department.”
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of “Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives” [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. Reach her at email@example.com.