Saturday, April 1, 2023

Amish dinner benefits Millheim Fire Company

MILLHEIM — Amish families, like all families, look forward to the wedding day festivities when a family member gets married. One of the day’s highlights is the dinner that is served to all who attend.
Out in Millheim, once each year, residents get to enjoy such a feast, but without the nuptials. The event raises money for a most-important cause — funding the local fire company — which in turn helps to reduce home insurance premiums. Among the factors impacting premiums are how far you reside from your local fire company, how close you live to a working fire hydrant, whether your local company has a paid staff or is volunteer-driven and what the response time is to your home in the case of an emergency.
The Millheim Fire Company, like most fire companies and departments in Centre County, is operated by volunteers. Its approximate $84,600 annual budget does not factor in any grant money it may receive, and just 28% of it is paid for through the half-mil tax the company receives from the three municipalities it serves.
The remaining 72% is obtained by the fundraising efforts of the fire company members, their families and the people who live within the area of coverage.
According to an email from fire company Treasurer Dennis Heggenstaller, company members spend more time raising funds than they did in 2007, which was when the company asked the three municipalities for monetary assistance by way of a tax.

So, when the company gets presented an opportunity to alleviate some of the revenue generating burden, it takes it. And that’s exactly what happened eight years ago.
Upon the suggestion from Amish community members, the company held its first Amish Wedding Dinner fundraiser for the public in 2015. The Amish community handles most of the planning and work it takes to pull off such an event. The public is then invited to the firehouse to enjoy the meal, or pick it up to take it with them.

This year’s wedding dinner was held March 4, and proceeds will be used for the purchase of new hardware for vehicle accident rescue or other technical rescues. Past fundraisers aided the fire company in buying battery-operated “jaws of life” and mechanical cutters that can be used underwater. The older version of the jaws of life had to be connected to power units via rubber hoses, which limited the distance from the power unit to the tool. This distance limited the use of the tool in specific situations.

Other fire companies in Pennsylvania also do wedding dinners to raise funds.

As the dinner concluded, a person familiar with the effort said they believed enough money was raised for the equipment; however, an exact amount wasn’t given.

Roughly 20% of the active firefighters who respond to fire calls with the Millheim Fire Company are Amish.
Although the dinner was a success, and plans are to hold an Amish Wedding Dinner again next year, the fundraising will continue.

Fire company officials said several events are on the coming agenda, including an Easter egg hunt, an Easter breakfast, the annual carnival, the yearly gun raffle, a breakfast with Santa and a tractor pulling event.
Without the local efforts, there may not be a Millheim Fire Company.

Keeping the local fire company as a viable institution saves money on a homeowner’s insurance premiums. But it also means that in case of an emergency, when seconds can make the difference between life and death, help will come from close by, not far away. Millheim has been without a fire company before. Parts of town burned to the ground in 1909 when fire broke out at a shed on the Musser House Hotel property. The flames jumped to four other businesses and/or homes and town leaders were forced to call on the Undine Fire Company from Bellefonte to help. By the time it arrived 49 minutes later, the fire was out and the damage was already done.