The citizens of Middlesboro, Pineville, and surrounding areas rely on the volunteers of the Bell County Rescue Squad in times of crisis. The members can be found in the least desirable situations — from working in the aftermath of a tornado to freeing someone from a crashed car.
MIDDLESBORO — For more than 50 years, Rescue Squad volunteers in Bell County have worked to save lives in the wake of disaster. Their efforts keep the people of Bell and surrounding counties safer, and a complaint is rarely heard from the 27 members who regularly don safety gear.
Founded in 1959 with only 12 members, the Rescue Squad has grown into a fleet of trained personnel, equipped with extrication units, boats, and a variety of vehicles able to travel on almost any terrain.
The group performs auto extrication (freeing persons trapped in wrecked vehicles), lost person searches, and assist with all disaster and emergency situations including flooding, severe storms, and chemical spill evacuations.
Additionally, they aid Bell County EMS, Middlesboro Fire-EMS, and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with many functions. The Bell County Rescue Squad also performs body recovery in drowning situations, using certified K-9 search and tracking teams.
Members are equipped and trained to perform high-angle rope rescue of injured and/or trapped climbers and are prepared for trench collapse rescue. Volunteers continuously participate in training to update their skills and learn new and improving techniques.
All of these services are provided 24 hours a day and, according to the squad’s First Lieutenant Robbie Brumbach, responding at all hours of the night is one of the most challenging parts of the responsibility.
“The physical aspect of it is difficult. Probably getting up at 3 a.m. is the hardest part. But you have to motivate yourself to do it,” he said.
Although he admits the choice to serve can be difficult at times, he never considers quitting.
“I never give up,” Brumbach declared.
For the members of the Bell County Rescue Squad, helping their fellow man is all the motivation they need.
Lorie Settles is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. She may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday: Vital Volunteers: Middlesboro’s Walt Overbay: Decades of service: Walt Overbay
MIDDLESBORO — Walt Overbay was recently named “Volunteer of the Year” by the Bell County Chamber of Commerce for his decades of service to the city.
The former business owner operated Montgomery’s Grocery, a western Middlesboro fixture since the 1940’s, for more than 30 years. Overbay began working there in 1958, later took it over, and ran the shop until it closed in 2010.
“He took care of numerous elderly people by delivering their groceries and never charging a delivery charge,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rob Lincks at the awards dinner. “Sometimes even paying their bills.”
Lincks, who served as a Middlesboro City Councilman for a term, reported that when his campaign for the office began, he was given some important advice — start eating at “Walt’s.” Without Overbay’s support, Lincks was told, he couldn’t get elected.
“So I bought several bologna sandwiches and cokes down there for that reason and we actually became good friends,” Lincks said.
It was the relationships that Overbay cultivated, that made him such an important part of the community. In a Daily News article about the closing of the departed store, he reflected on the friendships he had with his customers.
“I haven’t used an alarm clock in 40 years,” said Walt. “If I happen to be as much as 15 minutes late, maybe feel bad or something ... they come to my house wanting to know what’s the matter. ‘Are you sick, do you need to go to the doctor?’ they ask. They worry about you.”
In the 1970s, Overbay took on another important role. He began sponsoring and coaching Little League in the city. He continues to coach and serve as a positive role model for young ball players.
At the dinner, Lincks recalled a conversation about the sport in which the veteran coach explained his dedication.
“There’s no greater joy in life than to watch a kid go from not being able to swing a bat to being able to hit a home run,” Lincks repeated.
In response to his commitment to the youth of Middlesboro, the ball field on 30th Street is now called Walt Overbay Field.
Thursday’s Volunteer of the Day: Tabitha Webb
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop
Every April, the Middlesboro Daily News (MDN) editorial department meets to decide who we should honor when National Volunteer Week rolls around. We’ve honored organizations and individuals with stories about their service to our community. This week, we’ve honored the Bell County Rescue Squad and Middlesboro’s Walt Overbay, so far.
The individual that we honor today is special to us here at the Middlesboro Daily as she goes beyond the role of co-worker and is a true friend. She is also instrumental in many sectors of our community. Today, we honor Middlesboro Daily News Staff Writer Tabitha Webb. We can’t think of another individual more deserving of today’s award.
“Anytime you need something, Tabitha is there,” said Cathy Brock, the secretary at Covenant United Methodist Church, where Webb is a member.
Webb works with the church’s Crossroads Ministry and is on several of the church’s committees.
“When our elderly people need to go to the doctor, if I need her to take food somewhere or run errands — all I have to do is mention that someone needs help and she’s there,” Brock said.
We at the MDN can attest to this, as we’ve all witnessed her leaving work to go to a friend’s bedside just to offer comfort or to go clean an ill friend’s home. She also bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie when called upon.
Webb has been the treasurer for the Middlesboro Little Theatre (MLT) for many, many years. She attends every meeting of the theatre group, arranges for box office coverage for every MLT performance, and generally supports the theatre in any capacity necessary.
Webb has hosted a foreign exchange student in her home for six-months. Many of our readers may remember Mateusz Gugalka, whom Webb wrote regular reports about during his stay in America. She is still in contact with him and thinks of him as family.
She supports Bell County Friends of the Shelter, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association, and we are sure that she serves her community in other ways that we’re unaware of.
“She’s not only one of my best friends, she’s a great neighbor,” said Middlesboro’s Sue Meadows. “If I need anything, she’s always there. If I need her to house sit, dog sit, cat sit, whatever. I’ve called her late at night and she came running, and stayed with me through an emergency.”
Meadows also attested to Webb’s dependability. “When she puts her mind to something, she really goes for it. For example, we made the New Year’s Resolution to clean our houses and have a yard sale on April 1st — and we did it. When she says she’s going to do something, she follows through with it.”
We’re proud to have Tabitha Webb here at the Middlesboro Daily and think that we’re all fortunate to have such a service-minded citizen in our community.
Happy birthday, Tabitha!
Brandy Calvert is the managing editor of the Middlesboro Daily News. Contact her via e-mail at email@example.com
Friday's Volunteer of the Day: Elizabeth Hensley
MIDDLESBORO – Elizabeth “Libby” Hensley started volunteering at the Cooperative Christian Ministry (CCM) almost four years ago, a year after her husband, James Douglas “JD” Hensley, passed away in April of 2006.
“I started to volunteer to help others of course, but I needed to get out of the house.”
Hensley, who just recently celebrated her 81st birthday, retired from Ward Chapel in 1982 after teaching third grade for almost 30 years.
Hensley chose to volunteer at CCM after meeting Dorothy Woods, who was the clothing room coordinator at that time. Hensley filled out all the paperwork to become a volunteer and was quickly accepted.
You can find Hensley at CCM every Monday — and any other day that she’s needed — in the clothing room helping count clothes when they come in, separating clothes by season and size, and then hanging them up.
“I knew I didn’t want to work in the (CCM) office and do paperwork because I had done enough of that when I was a teacher,” said Hensley.
She also helps whenever CCM has a yard sale. Money made from these sales is used to assist families who need help paying rent, utilities, and other expenses.
And Hensley’s help is much appreciated by the CCM Board and Staff, says CCM Coordinator Pat Stanley.
“We appreciate her donating her time and energy to help people. Mrs. Hensley goes above and beyond what is asked and is a good example, that even after you retire, you’re never too old to give back,” said Stanley.
When Hensley is not volunteering, she can be found keeping in shape by exercising at Curves three days a week and exercising at the First Christian Church two days a week.
Though she’s only been a member of the Pinnacle View Primitive Baptist Church since April 11, 1992, Hensley has attended the church since she married her husband in 1951.
CCM is open Monday – Thursday from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. They accept all donations, except furniture (due to lack of space).
Saturday: Thomas Walker Volunteer Fire Dept. proudly serves community
EWING, Va. — National Volunteer Week serves as a time to celebrate those who so graciously give back, and encourages people to strengthen their communities through responsible action.
The Thomas Walker Volunteer Fire Department has been serving its community with great pride and energy since 1974, when it was a part of the local Civitan Club. Since then, the fire department has become an independent community operation and still plays a vital role in the safety of all residents in western Lee County, Virginia.
Currently, the Thomas Walker Volunteer Fire Department has approximately 30 experienced members from the area dedicated to public service and safety.
Chief Steven Jaynes, a lifelong Lee County resident, has been volunteering with the local fire department for 33 years now and has spent 27 of those as director. Jaynes said that he has always been fascinated by the work and loves providing a valuable service to his community.
“I think everyone needs to give back a little and add to their community, instead of just sitting on the sidelines waiting and letting life pass you by,” Jaynes conveyed, adding the fire department is always seeking more assistance.
In order to be a volunteer firefighter, an individual must be a Lee Co. resident and must also meet the active membership requirements or bylaws of the organization.
Further, interested people must successfully complete required probation or training needs, including but not limited to on-the-job training, Level I and II Firefighter credentials, HazMat (hazardous materials), etc...
The Thomas Walker Volunteer Fire Department meets the first and third Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m. and the meeting is open to the public.
Adam Young is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.