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Pasco County--Fire Auxillary Folds--Cites Dwindling Membership

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  • Pasco County--Fire Auxillary Folds--Cites Dwindling Membership

    St. Petersburg Times

    Firefighter auxiliary group loses spark
    Dwindling membership is forcing the women to disband after nearly 40 years of service - and fun.
    By STEVE THOMPSON
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 23, 2003

    HOLIDAY - On the morning of June 11, Dorothy Conaway sadly removed one last card table from Pasco County Fire Rescue Station 12.

    For 38 years, the Southwest Pasco Fire Lassies had held bake sales, spaghetti dinners, fashion shows, raffles and card parties to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the firefighters there.

    But for lack of participation, the group disbanded in April. The Fire Lassies, 70 women strong in its early days, had dwindled to about 15 members.

    "They either died or moved away, and we didn't get new ones," said Conaway, who has been president of the club for many years.

    For decades, the Fire Lassies provided generously for what used to be the Southwest Pasco Volunteer Fire Department.

    The fire department was formed in 1965 to serve the unincorporated area between Tarpon Springs and Port Richey. Its first truck was an old lumber truck they rebuilt with a 1,000-gallon tank and pump.

    That same year, 14 women gathered to form the Fire Lassies, and the club quickly grew.

    They raised more than $1,300 that year to help buy firefighting equipment for the truck and amenities for a new fire station on Mile Stretch Road - now Station 12.

    Over the years, the women bought a television, VCR, refrigerator, pool table, treadmill, washer and dryer, bedspreads, dishes and other housewares and furniture to make the station more comfortable for firefighters and paramedics while on duty.

    In 1974, Pasco County incorporated the Southwest volunteers into its countywide fire-rescue service. But the Fire Lassies continued raising funds to supplement Station 12's budget.

    In 1993, the Pasco County Commissioners commended the Fire Lassies for having raised more than $40,000 to support the firefighters there.

    But being a Fire Lassie was as much about having fun and getting together with friends as about raising money, Conaway said.

    Most of the woman were not wives or family members of the firefighters. They were just women looking for a fun way to get involved in helping out the community.

    "We really had a lot of things going on," said Conaway, turning the pages of one of several scrapbooks they had put together over the years.

    "I really enjoyed it, and I think a lot of people did," she said.

    There were pictures of the Lassies playing the slot machines during a gambling cruise. Other pictures showed the elaborate hats they had made for their Parade of Hats.

    "The women made hats however they wanted to, and we chose the one we thought was the best," said Conaway, smiling sadly over good times past.

    "After they decided that was it, we went out and had a luncheon," Conaway said. "I felt really sad about it because we had done so much."

    With what was left in their budget in April, the Lassies gave each of Station 12's three shifts a $300 gift certificate to Publix.

    During the past decade, as younger firefighters came in, the rescue workers and the Lassies began to see less of each other. But members of the older crew remember the women fondly.

    Allan McCray, administrative services chief of Pasco Fire Rescue, used to go to the Lassies' annual dinners.

    "They set up a big feed that would just knock your socks off," McCray said. "They were well-liked by the guys.

    "It's a shame to see them go."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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