One firefighter said it's nice to be appreciated by the community.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Flags were waved and voices lifted at the Mahoning Adult Services Co. in recognition of township firefighters and the daily risk those men and women take to protect the community.
Employees and workshop participants of MASCO, a program of the Mahoning County Board of Mental Retardation where adult mentally disabled individuals perform subcontract work and are paid for their services, honored the firefighters with a list of patriot songs and words of praise. Representatives of the fire department were also given hand-drawn posters, pictures, flowers, certificates and paintings by artist Ray Simon.
Richard Koker, job procurement specialist at the workshop, said MASCO clients saw the devastation of Sept. 11 and the efforts made around the country to help victims and honor emergency workers, and they wanted to do something in the township to let emergency personnel know they are appreciated. He said the fact that the clients are mentally handicapped has nothing to do with understanding the sense of loss felt around the country.
"This is a wonderful tribute to the men and women who fight for us and save many, many lives," said Koker. "Some of these people know of someone affected by the attacks, so this is also another way of helping them to have closure."
Preparation: Koker said the clients spent about three weeks preparing for the program and learning all the patriotic songs performed during the ceremony.
MASCO habilitation specialist Harvey Farbman said honoring emergency workers in the community is an excellent idea, but should not be reserved for times of crisis.
"It is a shame a national tragedy had to make us aware of how important our police and firefighters are. Most often they are overworked and underpaid and we just wanted to say thank you to you all," Farbman told the firefighters in attendance.
Reaction: Boardman firefighter Rob Ariza said it's nice to be appreciated by those in the community one serves. The gifts and speeches by MASCO clients Wednesday were moving for the entire department, he said.
"We are very grateful for this, it really brings home the message," he said. "We do what we do because we love it, but this is definitely another feather in our hats. I was moved almost to tears."