|For Volunteer 1st Responders, Earnings Aren't Measured In Wages|
|By Steve Mangione|
|September 1, 2021|
GOLDEN'S BRIDGE, NY —The brothers with 116 years of combined service with Golden's Bridge Fire Department were among 136 long-serving volunteer first responders in Westchester honored by County Legislator Kitley Covill on Tuesday.
The siblings, including Fire Chief Albert Melillo, Michael Melillo, and Robert Melillo, all members of the Golden's Bridge Fire Department were recognized by Covill for their longtime commitment as volunteer emergency first responders in a ceremony at the Golden's Bridge Firehouse.
The Melillo brothers and nine other members of the GBFD were among 136 active first responders lauded by Covill for 25 or more years of service with their respective volunteer fire departments and ambulance corps in Legislative District 2, which covers the Northern Westchester towns of Lewisboro, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Bedford, Mount Kisco and part of Somers.
The idea of honoring long-serving, volunteer first responders was conceived by Covill during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The elected official once served as a volunteer with the Katonah/Bedford Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps herself.
"Every time I heard an ambulance or fire truck," explained Covill, "it reminded me of the selflessness and dedication of our volunteer first responders – especially those serving for decades. When everyone was isolating – working, learning and recreating – in the safety of their homes, volunteer firefighters and ambulance corps members were putting themselves at risk for the safety, health and well-being of the residents and businesses in their communities."
The Golden's Bridge Fire Department is expected to be the first on the scene of all 9-1-1 emergency calls in the fire district, which covers the Lewisboro hamlet of Golden's Bridge and small swaths of Somers and North Salem. The fire district consists of hundreds of residential structures, a retail shopping center and other industries, including a sprawling lumber yard, an auto dealership and a plumbing supply house. A Metro-North Railroad station, a portion of the I-684 corridor, the Muscoot Reservoir, office complexes, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church and Kennedy Catholic High School also fall under protection of the all-volunteer firefighting force.
"We are humbled by this acknowledgement and thank County Legislator Covill for taking the time to recognize the efforts and commitment of Golden's Bridge firefighters, as well as members of other Northern Westchester fire departments – particularly those members who have been serving the community for decades," said Chief Melillo, who along with his two brothers is part of a family legacy of service that began with their father, the late Domenico Melillo, a life member who joined the GBFD in 1979 and spent 38 years with the department until his death in 2017.
"Whether they have 50, 15 or 5 years of service, serving the community is what our members sign up for. We train countless hours throughout the year for every emergency imaginable so that we can respond to residents and business owners experiencing the worst day of their lives," Melillo said. "Satisfaction comes when we knock down a residential fire with everyone coming out of it safely and minimal property loss – or when we rescue a boater in distress on the Muscoot Reservoir, or respond to the home of a 90-year-old resident with a medical emergency at one in the morning."
Covill noted that under normal circumstances, longtime first responders are honored by their various departments at an annual dinner, ceremony or parade — events that they've been forced to cancel over the past 18 months because of the pandemic.
"I wanted to personally thank these members of our volunteer fire departments and ambulance corps in a meaningful way for their continued service before I leave office at the end of the year," said Covill, who is not seeking re-election to a third term."I look at the youngest members of the various departments and I wonder if some of them will one day be on the receiving end of certificates of appreciation and special acknowledgement for 25, 50 or even 60 years of service."
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