Volunteer Fire Dept.’s scaled-back ‘Fish Fry’ still a success

Cory Kouns and Billy Brandes serve up a dinner of fish, french fries, fried okra, hushpuppies, potato salad and coleslaw at the 53rd Annual Vero Beach Volunteer Fire Department Fish Fry on Saturday, June 6. The annual fundraiser, which normally takes place in toward the end of March, was delayed due to COVID-19. Last year the fundraiser allowed the department to give away 11 scholarships worth $1000 each to volunteers needing to either attend the fire academy or continue their education and training. [Photo: Brenda Ahearn]

As they have done for the past 53 years, members of the Vero Beach Volunteer Fire Department hosted their annual Fish Fry last Saturday at Fire Rescue Station #2. And, while they offered up the same tasty panko-crusted cod, chicken tenders and sides, socializing was limited.

“Usually we set up an area to mingle and sit in the bay, where the firetrucks and ambulances are stored, but this year, because of COVID-19, it’s more like a grab-and-go assembly line,” explained Brandon Yates, board vice president.

Despite the event being postponed from March, supporters still showed up to express their appreciation to members of the Volunteer Fire Department. A fixture in the community since 1923, the squad provides backup and support to Indian River County Fire Rescue and to the community at large.

Funds raised are funneled into a variety of areas, including lifesaving equipment, public service projects and scholarships for EMT, firefighting and paramedic classes to help advance volunteers pursuing paid fire rescue careers.

“We’ve grown quite a bit, but with COVID it’s changed,” said Joe Hill, board secretary.

The nonprofit has some 100 volunteers, with roughly 20 actively involved with IRC Fire Rescue, although COVID-19 has curtailed that for now. The remainder primarily take part at events and assisting the community. Hill said a lot of people get to know them at the monthly Downtown Fridays, where they man a booth and manage the events’ setup and teardown.

“We’re a volunteer organization that gives people who have either worked previously in fire rescue or would like to work in fire rescue a way to get connected with other people who have the same interests,” said Hill. He joined about four years ago and was trained to volunteer as an EMT.

“We have some people who are really looking to get experience so that they can get hired, and we have some people who are retired firefighters,” said Hill.

“If you are interested in getting into fire rescue as a way of life – it’s a job but it’s really more a way of life – then you can meet other likeminded people and be mentored by people who have been in the tough situations,” said Hill. “They know how to do the job. They’ve got all those skills that they’re then sharing. We’re doing training every month, so they’re getting mentoring and training.”

Because of the growth of their monthly meetings, they are now held at the Intergenerational Center on Oslo Road, at 6 p.m. the first Monday of every month except January. Hill said they also plan to branch out by offering free CPR and fire education to the community.

For more information, visit vbfire.org.

Photos by: Brenda Ahearn
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