Community Awards

The Highland Engine & Hose Company – Lifetime Achievement Award

The Highland Engine & Hose Company During the year 1885, the citizens of Florida met at Seward's Hall, on the site of the Sam Cohen building at the corner of North Main and Bridge Streets. After listening to the pleas from some of the patriotic citizens and taxpayers, a group of men decided to form a Fire Company. It was agreed that the men would sign as volunteer firemen and drop whatever business or work they were engaged in to rush to the scene of the fire. There, under the direction of an elected foreman or assistant, they would use their intelligence and strength in subduing the fire.

Over the past 133 years, the men and later, women of the Highland Engine and Hose Company, as it came to be known, have answered the call for literally thousands of fires, auto accidents, ambulance needs, hazardous conditions, public service calls, and more. They have answered calls in the district as well as in neighboring communities, and as far away as Buffalo, Manhattan, and Long Island. The fire service has changed a great deal over the years from its humble initial equipment, including a dozen red pails, to the modern pumpers, tanker, rescue truck, and "jaws of life" today—but, the call is the same: help our friends and neighbors whose lives or property are in danger, and serve our community in whatever ways we can, through events like the Halloween parade, Christmas tree lighting, rides at Fun Fest, and Memorial Day barbecue.

We thank the Fun Fest Committee for this auspicious award and dedicate it to all members and families of the Highland Engine & Hose Company past, present and future.

 


Lona Olejniczak – Citizen of the Year

Lona Olejniczak There are people in our small village of Florida, NY that exemplify the meaning of community. Lona Olejniczak is one of those people. Lona is a prime example of how one person can affect the lives of almost every single person she encounters. She has been a member of the Florida Fire Department and Rescue Squad for nearly 40 years. Over this time, there have been countless occasions where Lona has rushed to give aid at motor vehicle accidents, in turn, making vital decisions that have saved lives and limbs. In addition to these rescue efforts, she has continuously been involved in countless fundraisers, raffles, dinners and blood drives that have benefited our community throughout the years. Not only can she manage the magnitude of large scale events, but she is an integral part in advising, training and mentoring the new members of the rescue squad. Whether Lona is overseeing an event, a new member of the corps, or an accident victim, the common response is this, Lona’s here, it will all be okay.

Lona was raised in West Milford, NJ, then moved to Warwick with her family in 1966. She married Zig Olejniczak in 1970 and they settled in Florida in 1971. To this day, they still live in the same house, where they raised their two daughters Brigette Lewis and Erin Scoville. If you live in Florida, there’s a good chance you’ve been to Lona and Ziggy’s home for a celebration of sorts, perhaps as a guest for a Thanksgiving dinner, a Halloween party, or one the of the weddings hosted at the house with the big grey barn. The love Lona has for organizing social gatherings has become a continuous practice for her. She has not only applied this love to her home and fire department, she has also organized several middle school and high school functions for the youth of Florida. Lona has always been an advocate for the kids and continues to enrich the lives of this community through her involvement in the local Presbyterian church, American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, and the Flowick Senior Citizens group.

Even though Lona could retire, she continues to work at Ramapo Valley OB-GYN. She is a woman whose energy is almost boundless. Her dedication to getting the job done extends outside of the office and into her everyday life. Even while on vacation, her EMT skills are often called upon. For example, on three separate occasions while flying, she tended to two possible heart attacks and a post-surgery emergency all of which had potential to ground the plane for an emergency landing. The pilot awaited Lona’s assessment of the passengers. Yes, she had the power to ground the plane! And for those of you who know Lona, control and authority comes naturally. To everyone’s relief, she determined the causes of the misinterpreted symptoms. which kept the plane in route and on-time. The airlines showed their appreciation with complimentary food, drinks, and airline tickets.

It is through these types of humanitarian acts that we recognize Lona Olejniczak. Her presence in our community is a constant reminder of just how much her acts of concern, care, and kindness, backed with action, have an everlasting effect on all of our lives. We are truly blessed to have her as our neighbor. This recognition for Citizen of the Year in our small village of Florida, NY translates into one very big THANK YOU, Lona, from all of us!