MOUNT VERNON — This month’s First Friday event had all the usual elements—food trucks parked on the square, bands playing acoustic sets and families moseying through downtown Mount Vernon. But a sense of gratitude and appreciation added something special during First Responder Friday.
“We have a lot of people in our community that take care of us and watch over us while we sleep and we just wanted to celebrate them and thank them for their service,” said Carrie Hyman, executive director of Main Street Mount Vernon.
Representatives from local police and fire departments were in attendance, along with dispatchers and members of the Mount Vernon Association of Police Chaplains and the Kokosing Valley Mounted Search and Rescue Unit.
Holly Bredefeld, who works as the office manager for the Mount Vernon Fire Department, said she was surprised to hear that the event was being held in honor of first responders, but that it was very well-deserved.
“Working at the fire department and seeing what they go through is amazing. I have such respect for them,” she said. “They deal with so much that people don’t know.”
“We do over 5,000 runs a year. We are busy,” she added. “People think that they’re just sitting around waiting for a call. They do so much more. They train constantly… They’re training every day.”
First Friday festivities also included a small ceremony to honor another group of local heroes: volunteers.
Dr. Randy Cronk, Tom Hinger, Tony Bonsignore and Bredefeld were recognized as Mount Vernon’s 2019 Volunteers of the Year.
Cronk was a founding member of the Kokosing Gap Trail Board in 1988 and has served as its president for more than 15 years. As board president, he organized a volunteer staff to carry out regular maintenance work and an emergency response group to help clean up after severe storms. He also does fundraising and plans long-term improvement projects.
“It’s no sacrifice at all. It’s a privilege,” he said. “It really helped me feel like I belong to Knox County and Mount Vernon by serving on the Kokosing Gap Trail.”
Hinger and Bonsignore were honored for their work organizing community softball leagues.
Hinger has organized the adult coed softball program in Mount Vernon for the past eight years. His current program includes a summer league made up of 22 teams and about 300 players, plus a fall program with about 250 players. Hinger begins preparing teams, planning schedules and hiring umpires in February of each year. He’s also been known to show up and ready the diamonds before games.
Bonsignore has headed up a church softball program for a decade. The program consists of three divisions based on skill level and age. The league plays at Riverside Park and Hiawatha Park from Memorial Day through mid-August. About 200 players and 18 teams are involved.
“It is a great honor to be able to do this,” said Bonsignore. “I get my joy out of it when we get to see how the teams and the fans and everybody gets a chance to enjoy great fellowship.”
Bredefeld was the final honoree. During her six years with the fire department, she’s been the lead volunteer for the United States Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.
“There are kids that need toys. You don’t want any kid on Christmas morning not to have a toy,” said Bredefeld. The program supplies families in need with approximately five new toys, one stocking stuffer and one book per child.
While presenting the award, Mount Vernon Mayor Dick Mavis stated that Bredefeld’s efforts made Christmas possible for more than 1,500 youngsters in Knox County. Last year, she stepped in to run Morrow County’s program as well.
Despite overseeing an extensive program, Bredefeld was quick to note the role that the community and local firefighters play in its success.
“It’s an enormous amount of work,” she said. “I’m lucky that the fire chief and firemen are just fantastic about helping. We worked ‘til 11:30 one night and then at 5:15 the next morning, the guys were back, doing it with me again.”
Bredefeld also serves as secretary for the Knox County Suicide Prevention Coalition and as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church.
After giving plaques to the four volunteers, Mavis named the fire department as the victors in this summer’s Battle of the Badges blood drive.