By Annette Hinkle
Sag Harbor’s Volunteer Fire Department is on call 24-hours a day to respond to emergencies and accidents of all sorts on the East End.
And when department members get back to the Brickiln Road firehouse after responding to a particularly big blaze or emergency, they can count on the members of the Sag Harbor Ladies Auxiliary to be there to welcome them with food, beverages and a pot of hot coffee.
The Sag Harbor Ladies Auxiliary is currently comprised of 16 members who have made it their mission to support the Sag Harbor Fire Department in a variety of ways — through fundraisers, pancake breakfasts or just being there at the end of long fire call.
Becky Guyer, the ladies auxiliary’s current president, is married to firefighter Mike Guyer and has been a member since 2001. She took the helm of the organization in 2010, but admits she wasn’t sure just how long the ladies auxiliary had been around until long time member Jessie Fick died last month.
At her funeral was a photograph of the ladies auxiliary from 1954 proclaiming it their first year.
That means the Sag Harbor Ladies Auxiliary will turn 60 in 2014, and Guyer and her fellow members are looking to do some special things to honor the occasion.
“We kind of thought we were coming up to a lot of years,” confirms Guyer.
Betsy Remkus, who is married to firefighter Jim Remkus, has been a member of the ladies auxiliary on two occasions — she first joined the group in the late 1970s, but after 10 years, had to drop out due to her job conflicting with meeting times.
“Then Becky got me back in to be vice president,” she says.
When asked how the role of the ladies auxiliary has changed since 1954, Guyer explains, “They’ve always assisted. If there was a big fire or an accident, they’ll come down for all the service people and provide food and coffee.”
“That’s kind of how it started, but as the years went on the auxiliary took on different things — helping out at the annual carnival, selling sweatshirts at HarborFest and the pancake breakfasts,” she adds.
And these days, the efforts also include lending a hand during natural disasters.
Last October when Hurricane Sandy rolled into town, members of the ladies auxiliary gave up the comfort of their own homes to help out in the emergency hurricane shelter set up in the Pierson High School gym.
“We’ll each do a shift, some of us stay over,” explains Guyer. “Different ladies do different set ups, including food and cots and check people in.”
“We were there for Sandy and Irene,” she adds.
While Irene turned out to be fairly tame by hurricane standards, Sandy was another matter.
“It was scary,” admitted Guyer.
“While we were driving there trees were falling on cars,” adds Remkus.
“I think there were about 30 people in the shelter — the five nuns from Cormaria came over. I figured we were blessed,” says Guyer. “We never lost power, but the buzzer from the basketball timer went off every time the power flickered.”
“But everyone was content and calm and we played games,” says Remkus.
“It was like a big slumber party,” says Guyer.
With the holidays coming up, another way the ladies auxiliary will be lending a hand is by helping the firefighters wrap Christmas presents for local school children.
“We’ve been getting everyone to come together and we work together really nicely to keep things going,” says Guyer who joined the ladies auxiliary in the aftermath of 9/11 because she felt the need to be more involved in the community.
Another tragedy became a mission for the members last year around this time — the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012.
“Betsey had the idea to decorate a tree outside the firehouse in green and white lights and dedicate it to Sandy Hook and the kids,” explains Guyer.
“I got in touch with one of the moms there,” adds Remkus with tears in her eyes. “Each child is having a playground built that is devoted to them. The Sandy Ground it’s called, and people are volunteering their time to put in a playground along the East Coast for each child killed at Sandy Hook.”
To that end, Remkus notes the students at Our Lady of the Hamptons Regional Catholic School — where her granddaughter is a student — held a bake sale for the effort and raised $400.
“We sent a check and that’s how I got affiliated with Grace’s mom,” says Remkus. “She called me to say ‘Thank you’ and I was speechless. What do you say? She was an incredible woman. They’ll put that money toward that project.”
With the 60th anniversary of the Sag Harbor Ladies Auxiliary on the horizon, Guyer has organized a “Girls Night Out” event which will be held at the Brickiln Road Firehouse from 7 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2013.
Guyer explains that not only is it a chance to get out and have fun, but it will also be a holiday shopping opportunity with vendors offering merchandise such as cooking supplies, jewelry, scarves, food gifts, and holiday décor items.
“Part of the reason I joined the auxiliary was to get a community together and find an outlet to be constructive,” says Guyer. “For me, it grew out of the need to do something in response to 9/11.”
So perhaps it’s fitting that in front of the Sag Harbor Firehouse there sits a piece of metal from the World Trade Center. Firehouses around the country have received these pieces from the towers to use as memorials to 9/11. In Sag Harbor, Guyer sees an opportunity to expand on the idea.
“We’re doing bricks for a memorial garden for past and present fireman,” explains Guyer. “We want to create a nice brick garden with the piece from the World Trade Center in the middle.”
To that end, Guyer invites residents to have the names of Sag Harbor firefighters, current and past, and their unit number inscribed on bricks which will be used to build the garden.
She hopes to see the project completed by next spring — in time to celebrate the Sag Harbor Ladies Auxiliary 60th anniversary.