HomeTown Credit Union spreads spirit in community Monday
Monday, October 10, 2016
Owatonna People’s Press (October 10, 2016) - HomeTown Credit Union took cupcakes to local emergency response personnel, visited shut-ins and helped clean up local trails as part of HomeTown Spirit Day Monday.
This is the first time HomeTown has done this, but it hopes to make it an annual event, said HomeTown’s Julie Conlin. With financial institutions having Monday off for Columbus Day, HomeTown wanted to thank those who serve in the community as well as spread cheer.
Credit unions around the state have begun devoting Columbus Day to projects such as this in recent years as a way of giving back to their communities, said Kurt Halverson, HomeTown’s community education coordinator. HomeTown’s Faribault office also took part in HomeTown Spirit Day Monday.
HomeTown employees in Owatonna were slated to clean local parks and trails as well as paint a senior center in the afternoon, but most of the morning was devoted to visiting local emergency response workers, including at the Steele County Sheriff’s Office and the Owatonna Police Department, Conlin said. However, their first stop of the morning was at the Owatonna Fire Department.
The Owatonna Fire Department has eight full-time employees, 23 paid on-call firefighters and six residents who stay at the fire department, said Todd Ulrich, a 34-year veteran of the department. Those six residents live in the firehouse as civilians live in homes and apartments, while the full-time firefighters are commanders and fire equipment operators.
Resident firefighters are asked to make a two-year commitment to the resident program, according to the official website of the Owatonna Fire Department. Upon completion, they can choose to remain living at the fire station or move out and become an on-call firefighter.
“There is a commander on every shift,” Ulrich said, and he is the leader at any scene they need to report to. The equipment operator is in charge of their trucks and other equipment.
“We check all the equipment on each truck each week, and we maintain our own building,” he added. The entire department performs drills on the second and fourth Monday of every month, too.
Perhaps surprising to some, the fire department actually spends only a sliver of their time fighting fires, he said. Most of their calls are for car accidents, many of which are on Interstate 35 or Highway 14, but they also devote a preponderance of their efforts toward education and inspections.
For example, all local kindergartners either receive a visit to their classrooms or a visit to the fire department to learn about fire safety, he said. In addition, the fire department inspects all rental properties in town every two years, and they went into downtown businesses this year to check for possible hazards.
“It keeps us busy,” said Ulrich, who, along with other firefighters, was wearing a pink T-shirt Monday in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. When they do need to contend with a fire — they receive an average of two structure fire calls each month — their farthest drive is roughly 20 minutes, and they participate in mutual aid agreements with several other local fire departments, including Ellendale and Blooming Prairie.
The fire hall has three floors, plus a basement where firefighters train for crawling in smoky buildings with a maze, he said. Most of their equipment is at the station, and they have a pair of meeting rooms they use for education and lend out to local non-profits.
The fire hall itself is a blend of old and new, he said. While the building has seen multiple additions and technological upgrades, the dance hall on the top floor remains — although it’s been converted into a gym — and the brass fire pole dating to the building’s opening in 1906 is also still in use.
There’s a laundry room, a common kitchen and a living room with a big-screen television, inviting recliners, a pool table and a card table. The department is a mixture of experienced veterans, like Ulrich, and younger firefighters with a couple years of experience. There are also two women in the department, including one resident.