Many Young Volunteers Needed at Area Fire Halls

Many+Young+Volunteers+Needed+at+Area+Fire+Halls

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

Misericordia students may not have fraternities or sororities to join on campus but Northmoreland Volunteer Fire Department has something very similar for students interested in volunteer work.

A building with an eight-person bunkroom, a kitchen, a lounge with a 55-inch flat screen television, PlayStation, Xbox and couches is similar to what stu- dents would find in a frat house. But, these frat brothers don’t party 24/7–they hang out while waiting to go out on call as part of the volunteer fire department.

Chuck Story, fire chief of the Northmoreland Volunteer Fire Department, said the fire hall is “a frat house off campus, really– without the alcohol.”

One reason the Northmoreland department, and other departments throughout the area, are looking for support from younger volunteers is they have flexible schedules.

“The community benefits because they have more people responding to emergencies,” Story said. “Plus, students in college usually have flexible schedules. They aren’t committed to a 9 to 5 job. So, it helps staff the station.”

Story said the station is flexible about the time students can offer and the older volunteers provide the training and the equipment. The department is looking for volunteers from the area or from out of town.

“We thought what a great opportunity it would be for students to continue their skills,” Story said. “A lot of people may have skills or belong to fire departments in their hometown and can’t continue those skills when they go to college.”

MU students Matt Stephenson and Corey Dulsky are a part of the Northmoreland Department and encourage other students to become involved.

Stephenson, a junior nursing major, has been a part of the department for seven years and got involved because it’s something his family members did. He said it’s something that was “in his blood.”

Stephenson also serves as one of the six line officers, and said it’s nice that younger members are allowed to serve as leaders.

“That’s one thing with us is that there are a group of younger people so they won’t get flushed out. We allow our younger people to get involved right away. They don’t have to sit back in the shadows,” Stephenson said.

The department’s leadership line consists of three members under the age of 22, according to Stephenson. He said there are times where the older members are washing the trucks and the younger members are fully in charge.

“They let us do things and be a part of the department where some other places leave it all on the older people,” he said. “Like, ‘you go wash the truck.’ That’s not the case. We all get along. I may be in charge one day and Chuck [Story] could be washing the truck. The younger guys are as important as the older guys.”

One of the hard parts, Stephenson said, about the department running solely on volunteers, is being dependent on others.

“We have on our books 70 people, but probably only 25 of them are regular and active volunteers. It doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to show up though. Some of them are 75 years old and they still go out on calls,” he said. Stephenson and Dulsky agree that the number of younger members is slowly increasing be- cause of the efforts of the current members.

“We’re slowly increasing our numbers because our group of guys slowly bring back another guy one at a time,” said Dulsky who has been with the depart- ment for two years.

Both MU volunteers said it’s a rewarding experience that many would enjoy if they made time.

“It’s a lot of fun, especially with your buddies,” Dulsky said. “You don’t even think of it as helping. You just forget about it and do it automatically. There’s no, ‘Oh I have to be at the fire hall,’ it’s just automatic. When you’re there when there’s a call it’s just a sense.”

Stephenson and Dulsky said the frat house atmosphere allows the volunteers to create camaraderie among all members of the department.

“Usually there is someone there every night either playing video games or doing homework and then you’re there if there’s a call,” Stephenson said. “The older folks love it because we take care of it. In the summer, we’ll have a fire pit out back. It’s honestly like a college apartment with more people.”

While both Stephenson and Dulsky are majoring in the medical field, nursing and medical imaging respectively, they said it doesn’t matter what someone’s interests are, as long as they are willing to help.

But, both men say the work they’ve done in the department lead them to want to work in a medical field.

“It kind of led me to the medical field,” Dulsky said, “just because of that rewarding feeling when you help others.”

Stephenson said the work he’s done in Northmoreland has helped with his clinical placements as a nursing major.

“For me, since I’m already in my clinicals, I’ve had a step up on some of the other students,” he said. “I’ve helped teach vital signs and a lot of the other students will ask me questions, not necessarily when it comes to what’s on the test, but what we’re doing in clinical. Sometimes I can answer, sometimes I can’t.”

Story said the department would really like to help students put their skills to use, similar to how Stephenson used skills in clinical work.

“What it does is enhance every one of those skills to what their degree is going to be,” he said.

Story said the volunteers, especially younger volunteers, grow more mature by working in high pressure situations.

“It’s a maturity thing that they gain the experience of handling life and death situations at a young age,” he said.

There is an application process for any interested student, which includes a background check. Then they can become a probationary member and start training with the other members and respond to calls.

Interested applicants can contact Story at 570-760-2411.

[email protected]