SKOWHEGAN — The church was not on fire.

That’s what someone cried Tuesday night from the banquet room at Centenary United Methodist Church as a firetruck and police cruiser wheeled into the parking lot.

There was no fire, but there were plenty of sparks from the eyes of Grace Roberts, the guest of honor, who will turn 100 years old Friday.

Firefighters, emergency medical personnel and police officers were present for the celebration, as was Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, who presented Roberts with a signed proclamation from the Maine House and Senate acknowledging her 100th birthday. There also was a letter from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and a framed letter from Gov. Paul LePage.

There also were 85 teddy bears to be donated to the three public safety agencies, who in turn will give them to children for comfort during an emergency.

The bears, each with a personalized hand-knitted sweater, came courtesy of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Priscilla Rebekah Lodge 69 in Skowhegan, which organized the event.

“I’m kind of overwhelmed,” Roberts said surrounded by well-wishers Tuesday night. “I think the teddy bears are a marvelous thing.”

Roberts grew up in Waterville and moved to a new home on farmland in Skowhegan in 1940.

She still lives in the same house and worked for many years in the shoe factories in Skowhegan.

With her husband, Victor, she raised two daughters — GG, short for Grace Gertrude Roberts, who turns 82 on Sunday, and Vicki, who died in 2006. Victor Roberts died in March 2007.

Carol Pavone, the lodge’s vice noble grand, said the order’s international president asks the organization to collect teddy bears nationwide to give to emergency responders, and the Skowhegan chapter is participating in the project.

“That was her special project, so we and our organization here in Maine got the teddy bears, and we’re going to donate them here tonight,” Pavone said. Roberts is a 25-year member of the Skowhegan lodge.

Police officer, sheriff’s deputy, firefighter and emergency medical technician Ian Shalit said each department is getting 28 teddy bears. One also will go to the Rebekah Odd Fellows national headquarters in Texas.

“The teddy bears are important to us because if we get sick children or children that experience something traumatic, it’s comforting to give a teddy bear to them,” Shalit said. “We carry them in the trucks, and when that sort of thing happens, it’s good to have them.”

Skowhegan Deputy Police Chief Don Bolduc agreed.

“This is fantastic,” Bolduc said. “You can never have enough teddy bears, and we always find a great opportunity, such as at an accident scene, to give a small child a teddy bear. Or in a hospital setting or if we’re in a situation where a family member is involved with the police, we’ll give them one then.”

Roberts was asked what the secret to a long life is.

“I was born in an active family, and I stayed active all my life,” she said. “I’m still learning, every day, from the newspaper, from the TV, from all my neighbors.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow