New Hope church recognizes Allegheny Twp. firefighters

Members of New Hope Baptist Church in Duncansville have gotten used to having meetings and classes interrupted by the sound of a siren that signals the church’s Chief Elder, Dr. Douglas Pilot, of Duncansville that there is an emergency in the community and it’s “all hand on deck” time.

It is this modeling of community concern from Pilot, who is also the president of the fire company, that the members of the church were enthusiastically in favor of honoring and thanking the Allegheny Township Volunteer firefighters with a banquet and ceremonies.

That banquet, which it was noted would be the first of an annual celebration of firefighters by the church, was held March 16. Church members cooked and the youth group served a ham and turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Door prizes were handed out, and Jeff Aldridge, a firefighter from Madeira, spoke about things most people do not realize.

“Firefighters have a very high rate of suicide,” Aldridge said. “Many firefighters suffer from trauma similar to military veterans … PTSD. Often they need counseling and so it helps to have a chaplain in the ranks of a fire company. For firefighters, it is a daily menu of tragedies: accidents, fires, deaths, trying to save lives, and it affects their own personal lives and emotions.

“Of course, there is another side to a firefighter’s life, too,” Aldridge chuckled,” because the fire company gets calls for anything and everything: cats in trees, fallen trees, broken water pipes, delivering babies, just about anything you can imagine.

“Firefighters sacrifice a lot of ‘at home’ time with family, so a family shares the burden of a firefighter’s life. Firefighters have to spare time for fundraising, training, cleaning and repairing things at the fire station and more.”

Dave Cassady of Duncansville, fire chief for Allegheny Township Volunteer Fire Company, attended the banquet with his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Chelsea, and reported that he and the company were thankful to receive recognition because they seldom receive many accolades for their work.

The evening was capped off by the presentation of the Fireman of the Year award — given this year to Todd Glunt of Altoona.

As New Hope Baptist’s pastor, Pilot also heads up a disaster relief team, consisting of men from several Southern Baptist churches who travel to disaster areas to help people. They muck out buildings, repair roofs, remove fallen trees or whatever needs to be done. They traveled last year to Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico after the hurricane, as well as several Pennsylvania disaster sites.

Asked why he spends so much time as a firefighter, relief worker and chief elder for the church, Pilot said, “I do it for the glory of God and to be a witness of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The church is located at 376 Maple Hollow Road, Duncansville. The church’s Facebook page gives an overview of the programs and activities of New Hope Baptist Church.