I still live in the same small town I grew up in…Bellwood, Pennsylvania.
My dad worked on Main Street at the local bank (back in the days when loans were made on character, not credit score). He was a partner in the Ben Franklin Five & Dime Store three doors down from the bank. Dad was very active in the community as a deacon at our church, president of Little League Baseball, the School Board, and the county economic development council.
Bellwood was totally self-sufficient. We had a dozen corner grocery stores, a lumberyard, a kick-butt hardware/hunting & fishing store, a pharmacy, pizza shops, several gas stations/repair garages, as well as a dozen corner bar/grills and at least that many churches. There were no K-Marts, McDonald’s, or 7-Elevens in the county. So most of the money made in our community stayed in our community. He taught us at a very early age that we had a responsibility to support our community “because we were all in this together.”
So, we all participated in fund drives for every good cause in Bellwood…magazine, cookie, and candy sales. The organization that had the fund-raising down to a science was our local fire company, Excelsior #1. They never begged for money. They held value-added community activities like the fireman’s festival and flower sales. And we loved to support them when they had their annual membership drive.
Through the years, our family was grateful to have a robust volunteer fire department. For example, in April 1974, a fire broke out at Treese’s Pharmacy next to the bank and quickly spread to Sakmar’s Five and Dime and K&M Pizza. Excelsior #1 quickly got the fire under control and saved the rest of the businesses and homes on Main Street (including my dad’s bank).
On March 1, 2016, the local pub and grill next to HalenHardy’s offices caught fire in the middle of the night. This was just 100 feet down on the opposite side of the street from my dad’s bank that the crew from Excelsior # 1 saved 42 years earlier. This time, the dedicated team of volunteers contained the blaze to just the bar and saved both adjacent structures.
Not surprisingly, as we all stood and watched the crews at work, no less than a dozen of the veteran firefighters who helped on the 1974 blaze came up to me and said, “Don’t worry, we got this under control.” And so do their kids and grandkids today and in the future.
To say that the Beaver family is eternally grateful for having the fabulous folks from Excelsior #1 “at the ready” is a gross understatement. Kudos to everybody who volunteers for such a noble cause.
When we launched the Buy 2 Give 1 Campaign in February 2021, we decided to present the Excelsior #1 Fire Company with the first batch of Spilltration Husky Rugs as a small token of our appreciation. Thanks to everyone who joined us in supporting First Responders in their community.