Wilton CERT sends Rawlins off with a big thank-you

When Wilton’s Community Emergency Response Team, better known as CERT, was formed in 2004, one of the first people to raise their hand to join was T.G. Rawlins.

Rawlins eventually became the team’s operations officer and on Wednesday, Oct. 16, he stepped down from that position and was given a celebratory sendoff by his teammates, as well as Wilton’s first responders — firefighters, police officers, EMS volunteers — that CERT supports. Dozens of volunteers, town employees and town officials gathered at fire headquarters for a luncheon and testimonials.

“Without T.G., Wilton CERT would be nothing,” said Jack Majesky, another founder. “There couldn’t be any single person more important to an organization like that guy,” he said, adding Rawlins was responsible for recruiting, training, and performance.

“In 15 years, we have never, ever failed on any deployment to turn out the numbers or do the job,” Majesky continued, “whether it’s 2:30 a.m. for 4 p.m. on a weekday.”

Majesky said one of the things Rawlins will be remembered for is his insistence to “do it better, do it safer.”

Considered second responders, CERT supports Wilton’s first responders, whether it is handling traffic during a storm or accident investigation, operating emergency shelters, participating in search and rescue, or distributing bottled water during prolonged power outages.

Rawlins is leaving CERT because he recently retired as a sales manager for industrial parts supplier Schaeffler, and he and his wife Tosha will sail south next week on the Intracoastal Waterway to Stuart, Fla. He promised they will return periodically.

A modest man, Rawlins did not specify any particular events of note as a member of CERT but instead said he was glad “just to be able to get to an event. You need the team, the skills and to gain the respect of the first responders to assist them.”

He took pride in “just being there when we’re needed” and helping to train “citizens to be ready for the Sandys and Irenes.”

He called the dedication of his teammates “unbelievable” and while every member has their own reasons for joining CERT, “at the end it’s common for all of us to be providing a community service,” he said.

A former member of the Round Hill Volunteer Fire Department in Greenwich, Rawlins said that when he moved to Wilton, joining CERT “filled that void of being involved in emergency services.”

One of the most challenging tasks is closing down Route 7 after a fatal accident so police can conduct their investigation.

“It’s tough, because people don’t know the detours,” he said.

Police Chief John Lynch is one first responder who appreciates CERT, saying it is a “great asset.” “We’re going to miss him,” he said of T.G. “Every call we went on he was there,” he said. “When he wasn’t there we started to worry about him.”

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said, “the personal commitment he made was enormous. It’s not easy and not everyone has that commitment.”

Despite Rawlins’ leaving, “others will step up,” she said. “He’s leaving the organization in great shape.”

One of those remaining with CERT is Pat Russo, another early member. He said CERT training “totally changes your perspective and how to anticipate emergencies. You’re always trying to be more prepared to the point where other people ask you for help.

“It’s been very rewarding getting to know T.G. It really is a strong volunteer group that wants to show they are involved and looking out for their neighbors,” he said.