For Kelli Naugles, current president of the Riverhead Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, the firehouse had always been “like a second home.”
“I come from a long line of firemen; my grandfather, my father, my uncles, they were all involved here, and I joined the auxiliary because my mom was a member,” she said. “Even when I was a kid, we always helped, there was stuff to do.”
Even though participating in the Riverhead Ladies Auxiliary was “family tradition” for Ms. Naugles, the important work that the ladies do wasn’t lost on her, especially this year, when the organization has been celebrating its 90th anniversary.
The Ladies Auxiliary was honored with a Certificate of Recognition from the Town of Riverhead and a State Assembly Certificate of Merit from the office of New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) at the Dec. 6. Town Board meeting.
“For the past 90 years with their first public meeting being held Jan. 25, 1932, the ladies auxiliary have taken on countless projects and hosted many events, all open to the public, which have raised funds and awareness for the Riverhead Fire Department,” Town Board member Kenneth Rothwell read from the certificate. “The ladies auxiliary’s dedication and commitment to public service is commendable and I urge the Town Board and all residents of the Town of Riverhead to join in sustaining public awareness of this community establishment.”
The group had approximately 54 members when they started in 1932 and increased to 95 members by 1939, according to the fire department’s website.
Throughout their 90 years, members of the ladies auxiliary have organized fundraisers, annual picnics and Christmas parties. According to the website, their largest event was the firemen’s association dinner every year during wartime. The organization also had a coffee committee to aid the firefighters after a fire, which they still do, according to Ms. Naugles.
“They call us out if there’s a big fire, and they call us out in the middle of the night to make coffee or sandwiches, stuff like that,” she said. “You have to be willing to get up at 2 a.m.”
Although they have reached an important milestone, “we focus more on giving than celebrating,” she said.
They continue to fundraise to help retired firefighters; raise money for scholarships for graduates of Riverhead High School participating in fire department activities; they send money to the Firefighters Association of the State of New York Firefighter’s Home in Hudson and send presents to various hospital burn units and more, Ms. Naugles said.
They currently have 30 members, including honorary members, some of whose families have been in the auxiliary for generations.
Ms. Naugles said that, in the future, they plan to continue to serve and reach out for new members.
Those interested in supporting or donating to the Riverhead Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary can mail the donation to the firehouse, at 540 Roanoke Ave., Riverhead, and direct it to the ladies auxiliary.
According to Ms. Naugles, the donations would go towards the organization’s scholarships, the FASNY Firefighter’s Home in Hudson and Operation Small Change, which helps meet the daily needs of the FASNY Firefighter’s Home residents.
“It’s the history … it’s really an honor to be a part of the auxiliary for me and to know the history behind it and the traditions,” auxiliary chaplain Kathy Berezny said. “I just think it’s nice to belong to something that’s been in existence for such a long time and to maybe take it to the next level.”