Ever since he retired as a Weehawken firefighter and provisional fire chief 26 years ago, Fredericks has spent countless hours working with the Red Cross, helping local residents in times of emergency. Fredericks is a member of the American Red Cross' board of directors, but is also present at many of the local fires where families are displaced and in need of temporary shelter.
"It's nice to help the community," said the active octogenarian, who still heads out to emergency scenes in the middle of the night to lend a helping hand. "I'm pretty proud to be someone who can help in a crisis."
For the last eight years, Fredericks has hosted a special luncheon honoring certain people in the community who help others, be it elected officials or concerned residents.
Last Tuesday, at the annual American Red Cross of Hudson County's appreciation luncheon at Schuetzen Park in North Bergen, all of the county's Offices of Emergency Management were presented with special awards, including the Hudson County OEM and all 12 local municipalities that have offices delegated to emergency management.
"The committee felt that the Offices of Emergency Management are the most unsung heroes of the community," Fredericks said. "A lot of people don't know what the OEM does or who the OEM officers are, but in the case of emergencies and disasters, they're the first people we count on to coordinate the plans. It's a big operation, with controlling gas, water, having evacuation plans in place. We thought that there were a lot of people who didn't know what they were doing and we decided to honor them this year."
Added Fredericks, "At the very least, it was a way for us to show our appreciation for what the OEM people do and perhaps wake up the community and let people know, especially after the tremendous effort both the county and local OEMs did during Sept. 11."
More than 200 people came to the luncheon to pay tribute to the local OEM officers. North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco was the chairman of this year's Red Cross luncheon.
"They asked me to be the chairman this year and I was gladly able to help them out," Sacco said. "The Red Cross provides a very valuable service to our community. Whenever there's a fire or an emergency, the Red Cross is there. They benefit the lives of everyone who lives in this region. If there's a fire, they're there to help the victims right away. The Red Cross is very active in the community and it was well worth my efforts to give something back to them and help raise some funds, because the Red Cross does need funds to continue to operate. It's just our part in helping a worthy organization."
Because he is a retired firefighter, Fredericks said that he had a special pride in honoring the OEM members.
"I have a special affinity to them, so that's why I thought it was fitting that they should be honored," Fredericks said. "This was the best luncheon we ever had with the biggest turnout. I was very pleased."
In the future, the turnouts might just be larger, because American Red Cross of Hudson County's chapter just merged with others to form the Northern New Jersey chapter, which now includes towns like Newark, Paterson and Passaic.
"It's the largest chapter in the state of New Jersey," Fredericks said. "We've just added the responsibility of about three million residents. We've certainly branched out."
Fredericks will continue to volunteer his time and efforts to help the Red Cross cause for as long as he can. "I don't feel like I'm slowing down any," Fredericks said. "I'm just glad to be able to help."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org