We Can Not Thank You Enough
Interview and Article by Andrea Jackson, Executive Director, The 200 Club of Bergen County
The 200 Club of Bergen County would like to give a sincere “Note of Thanks” to all of our First Responders working through these challenging times. They are all deserving of our gratitude and our support in any way we can show it. Today, we would like to recognize and specifically thank the Wallington Fire Department.
Tucked away in the southern corner of Bergen County in an area of one square mile is the Borough of Wallington. With 11,500 plus residents, Wallington holds onto its proud history while embracing the growing changes that have come to the area. As the Passaic and Saddle Rivers meander along its northwestern boundaries, the Wallington Fire Department (WDF) wears many hats to serve its community.
Sitting down and talking with former Fire Chief Bob Ventura, who was Chief in 2020, I found there are many components that make up the WFD. As Bob explained “Besides our 3 Company’s, all of which were organized more than 100 years ago, our department also umbrellas a Rescue Team, the Emergency Medical Ambulance Corps, and a Scuba Team. We have about 90 volunteers right now and hopefully, we continue to keep our roster strong always hoping to attract NEW volunteers.”
I asked Bob if we could go back to the early days of the pandemic. “So much has changed over these past 16 months. It is really amazing to realize where we started with this pandemic and where we are today. We were fortunate to have had a great amount of information coming to us early on. I am sure like so many other departments we felt like we were getting prepared, but really, nothing can prepare you until you’re in the thick of it. Keeping up with the constant changes from the CDC and making sure your volunteers were staying safe was, in itself, a full-time job. Our area, at the beginning here in Bergen County, was really on the front line! It was NYC, North Jersey and Connecticut getting slammed. The rest of the country was learning from us and sad to say, it just spread like wildfire.”
I asked Bob about maintaining his team over this period. “It was probably our best in terms of the number of volunteers available as most folks were not going into their jobs. If there was a plus to any of this, that was it. The WFD members were all great and our Wallington Police Department and our municipal government could not do enough, we worked great together. You needed to constantly communicate with all the departments and the municipality and work together but at the same time, you had to keep apart, no meetings; it just was the opposite of everything we had always done.”
One of the other challenges to the department was its inability to fundraise. “We do so much community outreach here in Wallington. We were always holding some type of fund-raising event, from breakfasts, dinners, raffles, and all of that just stopped. Now it’s our ability to rebuild our donations and, hopefully, in the coming months we can do that.” The Wallington Fire Department is also well known for its annual Wallington FD Holiday Parade. “If you have never come to see our parade, you’re missing out! We put so much into this and again, Covid -19 ended it for 2020, we hope to regroup for 2021.”
I asked Bob for some closing thoughts. “Well, you have to think positive and hope we have better days ahead. Our current Fire Chief, Chris Sinisi is working hard to keep everything moving forward. I guess, like 9/11, after this pandemic everything has changed. The reality that whatever is happening on the other side of the world, can happen here and you have to be ready for it. I also hope our citizens understand a little better about the sacrifice that all of the First Responders have made. I know for me personally, I think of our members like Greg Barnas who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I carry that in my heart every day. I also have two sons in the department, and I know that we all have to remain strong and do our best in the memory of all of those who gave this ultimate sacrifice. Hopefully, it makes a better place for all of us.”
On behalf of our Board of Trustees and 200 Club membership, we express our sincere and heartfelt gratitude, appreciation, and support for the Wallington Fire Department. We can never thank you enough for being there for all of us.