Fire departments depend on those pancakes
HARLEM VALLEY — Security is worth a mint, and there’s no doubt that residents throughout this region sleep more soundly knowing there are fire and rescue squads at the ready should an emergency occur.In the Harlem Valley, those who man the fire departments and ambulance squads are volunteers, working for departments that have to fundraise for a portion of their expenses. That’s where the popular pancake breakfasts come in — which many fire companies hold at their local firehouses from fall through spring to both raise money and meet and greet the public.Millerton Fire Company“You get to meet new people and see some of your old friends that you haven’t seen in years — you never know who will be walking through that door. It’s nice to socialize with everybody,” said Millerton Fire Company’s Al Andrews, who is on the Breakfast Committee.Andrews said the department will see anywhere from 300 to 325 people turn out to the firehouse for a morning meal. Millerton holds its breakfasts on the first Sunday of the month, from 7:30 to 11 a.m.; it’s been doing so for roughly three decades. The cost for the all-you-can-eat meal is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children 9 and under.Andrews explained how the fire company uses the money it raises from the breakfasts.“It can go anywhere from buying equipment the company needs but can’t get through the district, to giving support for things in the community we feel are important, like cancer research at St. Jude’s Hospital,” he said. “Basically the money goes back to the community in some form.”Breakfast Committee Co-Chair Vicki Moore added that funds raised from the breakfasts also go to scholarships and new uniforms, as well as groceries and supplies for the breakfasts, among other expenses. She added the breakfasts couldn’t be done without the help of countless volunteers — all of whom she thanked for their service.“Some are Young Explorers, hoping to become future firefighters,” she said. “Some help in the kitchen, or serving. The [North East] Community Center is a part of it, some people bring their children to help; it all makes a difference.”Moore said the same is likely true no matter which fire district one visits. She also said that the fire companies try to support one another, attending each other’s breakfasts on rotating Sundays whenever possible. The goal, always, is to raise enough money and awareness to support fire companies’ needs, so they can be at the ready in an emergency.Pine Plains Hose CompanyIn neighboring Pine Plains, Bob Mizgier helps run the pancake breakfasts, which take place on the fourth Sunday of the month. The tradition has continued for 14 years.“The money raised, a lot of it goes back into the community through donations to different organizations,” said the co-chair of the Breakfast Committee. “We do fire prevention at the schools, at least once a year. ... We have emergency funds, and a lot of money goes back into the community. ... We get money from the fire district, but we have to put a lot of our own money into it, too.”Mizgier said that Pine Plains Hose Company No. 1 typically averages 140 diners at its breakfasts, which he said “make a little bit of profit.” To help cover costs, the department just raised its prices by $1, something it hesitated doing but in the final analysis decided was the only way to walk away with something in its pocket.The price for the all-you-can-eat breakfast is now $7 for adults; $6 for seniors and children ages 6 to 12; and children 5 and under are free. The Pine Plains breakfasts are held on the fourth Sunday of the month from 8 to 11 a.m.Just as important as earning a buck, Mizgier said, is the public relations aspect of the breakfasts. “The important part of the breakfast to us is it brings a lot of people in from the community,” he said, adding there’s even a suggestion box present to help improve the event each month. “We feel it’s worth it ... and the work involved is more than well worth it. I think we get more self-satisfaction than we do profit.“The people in Pine Plains are very good to us and very supportive of everything we do, and we do our best for the community,” Mizgier added. “It’s also a lot of fun, and people seem to enjoy it.”Amenia Fire Company Andy Murphy is on the Amenia Fire Company’s Breakfast Committee. He, too, enjoys the fact that others enjoy the department’s and Ladies’ Auxiliaries’ efforts each month.“We’ve been doing it all these years, I would say easily 25, and it’s been continuous. We’ve never stopped,” he said. “I like it, even though it’s a lot of work. When the people come it makes it worth all that work.”Murphy said that on average, Amenia will get about 200 people at its firehouse for Sunday breakfast — accomplishing those two golden goals:“You get to see people and we do make money for fundraising,” he said. “And for us it’s good public relations. Everybody sees everybody, which is probably one of the reasons we have it — for good PR.”Cari Howard’s husband, Sean, is the former chief and a current member of the Amenia Fire Company. She regularly brings her children, and sometimes her mother, to the monthly breakfasts.“It’s great to support the community and good to have my kids brought up supporting the community,” she said.The Amenia breakfasts are held on the third Sunday of the month, from 7:30 to 11 a.m. The cost for the all-you-can-eat breakfast is $7 for adults and $6 for seniors and children. The standard fare at these breakfasts is enough to lure even the heartiest of appetites. The menus offer: pancakes, French toast, eggs (Amenia offers omelettes), bacon and sausage, hash browns or home fries (Pine Plains offers muffins), toast, coffee, tea and juice.Millbrook’s fundraisersMillbrook, meanwhile, has not held a pancake breakfast at its firehouse in many years. Instead it holds two large fundraisers for the Millbrook Hook and Ladder Company Engine No. 1. There is a chicken barbecue in September and an annual carnival in July.Both are popular with residents in the town of Washington and village of Millbrook and bring in much-needed funds. They also serve to familiarize the public with their local fire and rescue workers and the work those volunteers do throughout the year.