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Townsend Ecumenical Outreach receives community-service award

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TOWNSEND — The Townsend Firefighters EMS Relief Association presented its 2010 community-service award to Townsend Ecumenical Outreach (TEO).

Determining the winner was an easy decision for the membership to make. “It was pretty much unanimous. It was a no-brainer,” said Lt. Chris Cotter, president of the association.

The Townsend Ecumenical Outreach received this year’s award for the assistance it provides to victims of fire and for the ongoing help the volunteers at the organization provide to many in Townsend.

“We’ve all gone to a really big fire and Jim and Chris are there,” Cotter said. Jim Clish was a founding member of the TEO. His wife Chris works at the senior center.

In the aftermath of a structure fire, TEO members are there to let the family know things are going to be OK, Cotter said. If the victims of a fire already have support in place, members of the TEO let the people know more help is there if they need it. Townsend can have as few as one or two major structure fires a year, but that number can approach 10, Cotter said.

Part of the reason the TEO was honored by the safety personnel is the people who make the TEO happen. “It’s really impressive. Everyone who works up there are all volunteers. We thought that was pretty good,” Cotter said. The members of the relief association know the difficulties people can have in making time to volunteer while they are also working, he said.

The association meets a few months before the annual holiday dinner in December to chose a recipient for the award. Cotter said the guidelines for choosing the award are flexible.

Sometimes the award recognizes groups that have provided services over the course of many years. Other times the honor is given as thanks for a specific good deed. The honorees might not have done anything related to public safety, but have benefited the town in other ways.

The Shepherd businesses and Sterilite have been honored in the past for their generosity to the town. The Church of Saint John the Evangelist received the award last year because it allowed the Fire Department to use a vacant building for training before it was demolished.

The TEO provides help directly to fire victims and also helps the community in general by running the Clothes Closet and a food pantry from its building on Bayberry Hill Road. “The TEO is right there on the fire side,” Cotter said, and they also are there for people down on their luck.

The Clishes were given the plaque on behalf of the TEO at the annual Firefighter and EMS dinner at Townsend Ridge Country Club on Dec. 4. Cotter said he was glad they were both able to attend the dinner.

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