By Terry Harris
If you are looking for a challenging way to make a difference in your community Stony Creek Volunteer Fire Department may well be the answer, according to Volunteer Training Officer/firefighter Nick Sheffield.
“Right now, obviously COVID has changed the way we operate,” Sheffield said. “For example, we have some senior members who have not been able to be as involved, and even before COVID we realized that we’re to a point that we need to start building younger membership. So we’re actively looking to engage local youth – high school or college students - to come join us at the fire department.”
Sheffield was quick to add that they are not only looking for younger members, and there are very important roles that others can play as well.
“We always can use retired truck drivers, for example, to operate our trucks and equipment,” he said, “and we have positions like secretary and treasurer that are great for people who are good with organization or making reports, but may or may not be interested in participating in the more physical things. But what we’re really hoping to find right now are some 16-18-year olds who can come in and learn and grow and age up to fill the void left by people who are retiring.”
One obvious benefit to the young people they are seeking includes that this type of volunteer experience “goes a long way with college admissions,” he said. “But there are other advantages we offer as well. The fire department is a perfect place for building confidence in our younger members. We provide them with life skills - leadership, teamwork, dedication – all within a framework of camaraderie – which is invaluable as they move on to careers. They get to learn to work as part of team, be honest, value integrity, and develop a level of professionalism they can carry on to their community and career.
“It’s not in any way taking away from parental roles,” he added, “but we do have a lot to offer that sometimes can help shy kids, for example, to come into their own. And the things they learn here make them more marketable as they go out into the world for jobs. I look at it like we’re sort of like in a big brother or sister role as they learn to be a member of a team, become physically fit, and to love a challenge, all in a very family-oriented environment.”
Sheffield, who started as a fire service volunteer when he was still in high school, stressed that there is no financial burden, saying, “We provide gear and everything else. Their only commitment is to give of your spare time as you can to help the community. We ask that people who join show up for meetings and activities, but we don’t have hours requirements or anything like that. We’re looking for people to help out the community as they can - as it works for them.”
He explained that for junior members the department offers training about operations so that when they reach 18, they’re ready to step in as full-fledged firefighters. They do require parental consent and welcome discussions with parents so that everyone is comfortable with the training.
“There’s a lot of value in watching what happens, helping with certain tasks, and basically keeping out of harms way at fires at 16 or 17,” he added, “though we do let them help with wrecks and anything else. We require that they maintain decent averages in school and if they need any help with that we try to provide that as well.”
As for the job itself, Sheffield said, “I like the challenge. There is nothing else like it. Excitement, camaraderie, something different every day. And we are truly a community-based organization – putting flags on poles for the town, helping with the Christmas parade and assisting with other things in the park. That’s one of the reasons I’m there - serving the community.”
“Obviously I love to fight fire,” he said, “but knowing that you’ve made an impact – hopefully made the worst day in someone’s life a little bit better - that’s the sort of feeling you get here. We are very welcoming and just want folks to come on down and see what it’s about. I’ll be happy to talk with anyone who wants to know more about the best job in the world!”
For further information call Nick at 434-637-6904.