Bucks County Herald

End of an era: West Amwell Fire Co. Auxiliary set to host last community dinner

JOHN SIEVERS

When members of the West Amwell Volunteer Fire Company Auxiliary gather Saturday, Oct. 14 to prepare their traditional community Roast Pork Dinner, it will be their last time.

“We’re still going to continue our group,” Joan Van der Veen, auxiliary president said. “We’re just not going to do the traditional public dinners.”

The roast beef dinner was held every April while the roast pork dinner was held every October.

According to Van der Veen, the decision to stop serving dinners was difficult, but one that had to be made. Auxiliary members cite a lack of new volunteers as a major reason, but there were other contributing factors over time that eventually made the decision to stop a little more obvious.

“In the recent past, volunteer fire companies have closed or have been replaced by paid companies,” said Robin Deal, another auxiliary member. “As the number of volunteer firemen has declined so has the number of auxiliary volunteers.”

Van der Veen said people are busy with children, their jobs and other responsibilities.

“People just don’t have time,” she said.

Van der Veen said the auxiliary membership isn’t what it used to be but there are still 15 members. Some of them are more than 75 years old and have been members since the beginning, more than 50 years ago.

In recent years, the volunteers have been helped by members of the local chapter of Future Farmers of America, who help out in the kitchen and serve food.

Disbanding the auxiliary was discussed but never really seriously considered. It began in 1949.

“They’re from that generation,” Van der Veen said of the old guard volunteers. “They just don’t give up.”

She said the group will help the firemen with annual take-out chicken barbecue.

The family-style nature of the 16-table dinner, with in-order-of-arrival seating did not appear to be popular with the younger generation.

“Diners are often seated with folks they don’t know,” Deal said. “For older patrons this is no problem, but it seems that younger folks aren’t comfortable with it. Most of them are glued to their smart phones, aren’t they?”

Also, takeout sales have outpaced dining room sales in recent years.

“When these community dinners started years ago, there weren’t as many affordable dining options as there are today,” Deal said.

Many community-based firehouses used to be the primary source of social events because most families participated in firehouse activities, according to Deal.

Van der Veen thinks West Amwell’s future could be a paid fire company at some point. “I can see it moving in that direction,” she said.

The auxiliary is going to keep going, and they are “working on some ideas” for fundraisers, Van der Veen said. She added that she’s also open to ideas.

The final dinner will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the West Amwell Firehouse at 24 Mount Airy Village Road. Admission is $14 for adults and $6 for children 6 to 12. Those under 5 eat free. Patrons may eat at a table or order take-out.

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