Westfield honors first responders

A tribute to them

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl Local officials gathered on Friday afternoon for the groundbreaking of Westfield’s tribute to first responders. Pictured, from left, are John Hanmann, treasurer of the Westfield Exempt Volunteer Fire Association, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello and Al Holbrook, president of the Westfield Exempt Volunteer Fire Association.

WESTFIELD — Friday’s windy, overcast weather did not stop Westfield officials and community members from gathering together for the groundbreaking of the tribute to first responders. In fact, the weather served as an inspiration for Westfield Exempt Volunteer Fire Association President Al Holbrook. “Our first responders usually get up in the middle of the night, in all kinds of weather, to do what they do, so I’d say this weather is fitting,” he said to the crowd gathered at 18 N. Portage St. on Friday afternoon.

Holbrook explained that the ceremony served two purposes: To celebrate the official groundbreaking of the tribute and to launch the fundraising campaign to bring the project to completion.

Father Al Cloty, fire department chaplain, offered the introductory blessing and dedicated the parcel of land to local first responders including those who have passed away, those who are currently serving and those who will be inspired to participate in public service.

“We’ve had a fantastic committee that’s been working on this project for almost two years,” Holbrook explained. “There are over 30 individuals who have been involved, and it’s been a labor of love. I want to thank all of those individuals who have been a part of it.”

Since the summer of 2017, the committee has been meeting and planning for a tribute to recognize those who have served the Westfield community, including police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The tribute site is planned for the former site of the Portage Inn as part of the redevelopment project for this location. Significantly, this is also the site of the first fire hall in Westfield.

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl Pictured here is the proposed design for Westfield’s first responders tribute at 18 N. Portage St., which is the site of the village’s first fire hall.

Several local officials participated in Friday’s groundbreaking including Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello, Westfield Mayor Michael VandeVelde, Westfield Town Supervisor Martha Bills, Westfield Police Chief Robert Genther and Matt Gambino of Coronado Stone. Gambino, whose company is donating the stone for the obelisk, is also contributing $1,000 to the project.

Diane Hannum of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation presented Holbrook with a check for the $1,500 grant that was awarded for the project. Holbrook recognized John Hanmann, treasurer for the Westfield Exempt Volunteer Fire Association, for his donation of $2,500 in memory of his wife, Paula.

Vinny Sanzo, pastor of Lakeshore Assembly of God Church, offered the closing blessing. He recognized that the tribute is not just “stone and cement and dirt” but a representation of how much the community appreciates those who serve and have served.

Holbrook explained that the NCCF, a non-profit organization, is managing all funds for the project; all donations to the project made through the NCCF are tax deductible. Donations can be sent to the NCCF at 212 Lake Shore Drive West, Dunkirk, 14048.

A dedication ceremony is planned for the completed tribute on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. For more information, visit the project Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wfrtny or donate at www.gofundme.com/westfield-first-responders-tribute.