Friday, July 4, 2008
Good food for a good cause
The annual chicken barbeque at the Fire Station is a wonderful community-building event that epitomizes last weekend’s Old Home Day celebration. Many residents who enjoy this chance to eat delicious food, listen to music and meet and socialize with neighbors may have no idea how much work is involved behind the scenes, or how the profits are used.
The dinner has been hosted by the Carlisle Firefighter’s Relief Association for over 20 years, according to member and barbeque chairman Richard Sibley, who said the preparation begins long beforehand. After planning sessions, about half a dozen firefighters and their families shop and prepare the food. This year, he said, they bought 350 chickens, 800 ears of corn, 17 pounds of butter, two large vats of cranberry sauce, 30 watermelons and 600 pounds of charcoal for the grill. This does not include the ingredients for their “traditional secret sauce,” the hundreds of drinks and servings of pasta salad. The salad was prepared ahead of time at the First Religious Society kitchen, which is certified for public food preparation. On Old Home Day, Sibley said the work starts at 6:30 a.m., with trips to vendors to pick up the rest of the fresh food. The grills behind the Fire Station are lit by 2 p.m. so that the first chickens are ready at 4 p.m. when the event starts. About 25 volunteers cheerfully grill chicken, boil corn and serve the food for over two and a half hours. Sibley said the volunteers include about 15 firefighters, ten family members and other youths who earn community service.
Fire Chief David Flannery said that about 600 people attended the event. In the recent past it has sold out and, in response, this year they had prepared enough for 700 to avoid having to turn people away. Bryan Sorrows, current president of the Firefighter’s Relief Association, said they were able to sell some of the leftovers, and with the help of Reverend Keith Greer of the Carlisle Congregational Church, they were able to share extra food with needy families in Lowell. Sibley was philosophical about the unpredictable yearly fluctuations and believes they will still net about $2,000 for the association. He noted that people can help them in future years by buying tickets ahead of time. If more tickets were bought sooner, it would help him adjust food purchases. “It’s a challenge,” he said, adding that by the day of the event, “I’m committed to my chickens.”
Sorrows explained how the money that is raised will be used. The charitable organization keeps two accounts: a general fund and a relief fund. He explained that the money they “work” for, like the barbeque, goes into the general account, while all money obtained from other fundraising goes strictly into the relief account.
The general account pays for “extras” such as: installing and furnishing the Fire Station kitchen; an annual dinner to honor the firefighter spouses and retirees; a family ice skating hour at the Middlesex rink; and purchasing stuffed animals for the ambulance. It also pays for educational materials that are distributed to children annually for Fire Prevention Week.
The relief account is used to aid firefighters and EMTs in several ways. Sorrows notes, “Many of these relief benefits are in token amounts, but are important for recognizing the service of the department members.” Relief grants may be given for: personnel who die or are injured in the line of duty; a retirement benefit; and limited education grants (e.g. to cover the 50% of the EMT training cost not covered by the town). The Association also provides funds to fire victims to cover meals or housing, etc. before the insurance assistance is available. Sorrows says that many people in Carlisle do not need the financial help, but for those that do, “it can be a way to make a difficult time a little easier for victims of fire.”
Sorrows noted that they try to avoid fundraising when the economy is weak, and stressed that they do not solicit funds on the phone. Anyone who receives such a call should be aware that it is not from the Carlisle Firefighter’s Relief Association. He said that, “The town has been generous with the Association, and the Association has been very careful with the funds given to us.” ∆
Living in our small town
Recently there have been a number of events in town that have the type of landmark characteristics that makes one think about exactly why one would choose to live in a particular place. Oftentimes one opts to live somewhere simply because we prefer some certain physical characteristic, such as the arrangement of the village center, or the school system or historical connection. All this is well and good. But what keeps people in our town is an underlying characteristic that is often ineluctable but frequently widely perceived by people who live here.
In Carlisle, it is initially a deep sense of personal history in the town. Ours is not the history of momentous battles, heroics or legend but the history of dedicated, principled service to a much-loved, much smaller community by quite a number of people and several families over several generations. Unlike so many suburban towns, and despite the growth and spread of our town, this dedication to and understanding of service continues unabated. Thank goodness.
Some in Carlisle still feel a calling to dedicate night after night, week after week to meetings and seemingly endless discussion toward an end or ends which are seemingly elusive despite their best efforts. Some in town perceive a need and are driven to accomplish a larger goal despite the objections, short-sightedness or obstinacy of some other townsfolk. Thus we have benefited from the role models of our forefathers who, in simpler times, gave so much to give Carlisle its unique character by creating the community structures that we take for granted today.
As we leave our storied Old Home Day with its memories of days of yore, military and civilian service and joy-filled backyard events that celebrate neighbors and friends, let us remember and look ahead to what is yet to be done – dreams and idealized objectives that will make Carlisle the town we want it to become, all the while keeping a keen sense of the history of what Carlisle was and is to this day.
If nothing else, as demonstrated by umpteen town-wide symposia and lesser meetings, Carlisle remains a community of strong values which endure and are worth keeping in mind. Education, rurality and affordability most likely lead the list of values that continually headline. Leadership values on the part of our children, demonstrated by community service, academics and sportsmanship, are also highly prized and recognized.
Perhaps what is unique about Carlisle is that it is a community of personalities who daily demonstrate a vision and the leadership to maintain a sense of historical continuity, while moving forward into the 21st century. We are not a community of faceless boards and committees who end up talking to themselves. Never mind cable TV; citizen interest remains better than most towns, even if it could be a little better. Neighborly interest, help and support are hallmarks of our Carlisle culture. But as we leave another landmark celebratory Carlisle moment with its dunking booth, pet shows, turtle races, citizen celebration and parade, think about why you have chosen to live here. Forget the warts and join the fun. After the cheering subsides, consider your role in our community and become a more active member. You have more to offer than you may think!
© 2008 The