Toronto’s first responders honored

HONORING TORONTO’S FIRST RESPONDERS  — The Toronto Coalition for Revitalization organized an appreciation banquet Sunday night for the city’s first responders. Taking part in the event were, from left, TEMS Joint Ambulance District Chief Clark Crago; Coalition organizer Bob Merideth; Police Chief Randy Henry; Mayor John Parker; Fire Chief Bill Scheel; and Coalition organizer George Komar. - Dave Gossett

TORONTO — More than 200 people gathered in the Karaffa Elementary School Sunday evening to say thanks to the first responders of Toronto.

The first responders’ appreciation banquet was started by Bob Merideth and George Komar, members of the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization.

“George and I were talking and decided we had to do something for our first responders. We needed to recognize them and honor them in some way, and from that first conversation it just grew. Toronto is a very safe community, and these are the men and women we have to thank for that,” explained Merideth.

He said the dinner almost immediately sold out.

“The response was overwhelming because the people of Toronto know their first responders and appreciate them,” Merideth said.

Don Clarke served as master of ceremonies for the event and noted in his welcoming comments the city’s first responders “are always helping us. They save lives, put out fires and protect us.”

“This means a lot to us. We don’t often hear the thank-you because we often see people at the worst of times. It is important to know you are helping someone and they do appreciate that help,” noted Chief Clark Crago of the TEMS Joint Ambulance District.

“I think this was a wonderful idea. It lets the city residents show support for us and we can show our gratitude to the city residents,” said Toronto Fire Chief Bill Scheel.

He said Sunday evening was an emotional event

The Toronto fire department includes six full-time firefighters and 24 volunteers.

“Toronto is an older community with older buildings. We have great response times because of our professional staff. We respond to calls quickly and know what to do and we do our jobs. And everyone goes home safe,” Scheel noted.

“This was totally unexpected. I am not used to something like this, but I can tell you it is very appreciated by our police department,” stated Police Chief Randy Henry.

“This is a happy occasion and I am thankful for the recognition by the community. We do a necessary job that isn’t always a popular job. But we enforce the laws of the community,” remarked Henry.

Mayor John Parker represented Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, who was unable to attend the dinner.

“It is a wonderful idea to recognize our first responders. We appreciate everything they do and the support they give our citizens. Our first responders are vital to keeping everyone safe and sound and they truly protect our community,” Parker stated.

The children’s choir from the Riverview Methodist Church sang several patriotic songs while the Rev. Raul Diaz of the Cornerstone Church prayed for unity, as we honor those who protect the public.”

Proclamations of appreciation were read by state Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville; state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire; and Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham.

American Legion Post 86 presented the colors.

(Gossett can be contacted at