The Highland Optimist Club put on their annual dinner last week to recognize the people who put their lives on the line everyday to insure the community remains safe.
Each year at a special meeting, the Optimists share a meal with the Highland Fire Department, Highland EMS, and the Highland-Pierron Fire Protection District in order to thank them for what they do on a daily basis.
“You are a very important part of our community,” said Robert Dunn, Highland Optimist Club president.
The Optimists also ask the chief of each department to nominate members of their teams to be awarded for standout service.
“This dinner and the awards that we will be giving out this evening are just a small token of the thanks we want to give to our volunteer firefighters and our emergency medical professionals,” Dunn said.
This year Highland Fire Department Chief Rick Bloemker chose Chris Straub as the department’s Firefighter of the Year.
“He has given the Highland Fire Department 24 years of fantastic service,” Bloemker said.
Bloemker said that Straub is a fantastic individual, who is extremely reliable. He said that on top of being a standout family man, Straub is ready for any call whether it be for an emergency, or community support. Bloemker also relayed that Straub is an instrumental player in the department’s fundraising efforts.
“He always gives 110 percent,” Bloemker said.
Highland-Pierron Fire Protection District Chief Steve Plocher came to the podium to present Shawn Hogg a Firefighters of the Year award.
“Shawn is just a very energetic and very giving person,” Plocher said.
Plocher said that Hogg is an extremely active member of the community. Aside from being an active part of the department, Plocher said that Hogg is a dairyman, and an involved father, who rarely misses any of his children’s events.
Plocher also said that being a firefighter means always being ready for what may come, and Hogg is that person — day or night.
“I don’t know how he does it all,” Plocher said.
Highland EMS and Fire Capt. Tim Rusteberg represented EMS Chief Brain Wilson, who could not make the dinner due to Highland City Council meeting coinciding on that same night. Rusteberg announced that the Fire-EMS award went to Stephen Durbin.
Rusteberg said that he picked Durbin because he is always at the forefront of EMS and fire education. Rusteberg said that Durbin always teaches first-responder classes, answering questions and providing information on things like state laws, and other miscellaneous information.
“He is one of the first people I go to just for extra information,” Rusteberg said.
The Optimists also presented a member of the city staff with a donation for a local project that has recently received support from the community.
Dunn gave Highland’s Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Rosen a check for $6,000, which will will go toward an all-abilities playground at Dennis H. Rinderer Park on Veterans Honor Parkway.
“Thank you. This is very much appreciated,” Rosen said.
The city has pursued the project over the last several months, and recently, the City Council approved the first phase of the playground’s construction to begin. Rosen estimates that the first phase of the project will be completed by Nov. 1.
However, the city is attempting to raise funds to cover the cost of the project through raising funds. An upcoming concert on Sept. 2 will also work as a fundraiser for the project. In addition, a pass-through fund has also been established at the Highland Area Community Foundation for those wishing to make tax-deductible donations.
“This is going to be a huge impact for our community in positivity,” Rosen said.