SMALL TOWN, MINNESOTA, on a Saturday night, and I am snapping pictures at a pork chop supper in the community hall.
This could be Any Town, rural Minnesota. But this is my hometown of Vesta, population around 330, situated half way between Redwood Falls and Marshall along State Highway 19 on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.
Outside the hall, several volunteer firemen, including my cousin Randy, are grilling chops over an open charcoal pit for the annual Vesta Firemen’s Relief Association Pork Chop Supper.
Inside, Randy’s wife, Erin, and others are scooping up baked beans and potato salad and parceling out chops while other volunteers sell tickets and pour beverages. My nearly 81-year-old mom, whom we are visiting for the weekend, is treating my husband and me to supper.
As I mingle among diners, chatting with aunts, an uncle, cousins, and locals I haven’t seen in awhile, I’m cognizant of the importance of this event to raise funds for the Vesta Volunteer Fire Department. Proceeds will go toward a new $25,000 Jaws of Life device, already purchased with a $5,000 grant, past Pork Chop feed dollars and a loan.
After finishing my meal, at 7 p.m,, I step outside the Vesta Community Hall to observe several volunteer firemen remove a windshield and peel open the doors of a junk car using that new Jaws of Life.
Bracing myself against the stiff wind in a “feels more like 15 than 30 degrees,” I question my judgment in roving around the “accident scene” taking photos. Why would this crowd of about 30 stand outside in this raw weather watching this demonstration?
Because they care. Because they support their local volunteer firemen and First Responders. Because they know this could be them or their next-door-neighbor or their sibling or some stranger off the highway in need of rescue and emergency care.
The fire department typically responds to 12 – 15 fire calls annually in a 61 square mile area covering the City of Vesta, Vesta Township and part of Underwood Township, according to Fire Chief Travis Welch. In 2012, firefighters fought a major shop fire. They also responded to two head-on crashes which left three dead. Eight of the volunteer firemen serve as Vesta First Responders.
To the 18 volunteer firefighters—Travis, Jeremy D., Dallas, George, Randy, Tony, Aaron, Jeff, Jeremy K., Jon, David, Brian, Jason, Andrew, Neal, Jordan, Ryan B. and Ryan E.—thank you for being there for my hometown of Vesta.
FYI: If you wish to donate monies toward the $5,000 balance owed for the Jaws of Life, mail your donation to:
Vesta Fire Relief
c/o David Widman
Vesta, MN. 56292
The new Jaws of Life replaces jaws more than 20 years old and “unable to cut some of the new high tensile steel in today’s cars,” according to a letter from the Vesta Firemen’s Relief Association.
© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling