Volunteerism: The Original Social Network
Since its founding in 1940, the Neshannock Volunteer Fire Company has been staffed entirely by volunteers. According to regionally adjusted statistics provided by the National Volunteer Fire Council, the citizens of Neshannock Township enjoy a savings of more than $1 million per year by utilizing volunteer resources for public safety response. To maintain this savings while upholding our response obligation, we need a continuous supply of new volunteers.
The American volunteer fire service traces its lineage back to the 18th century when Benjamin Franklin founded the first documented volunteer fire brigade. But, the volunteer fire departments in our nation experienced the strongest period of growth in the 1940s and it continued for nearly 40 years. This period coincides with the pinnacle of fraternal, civic and service organizations across America. The spirit of volunteerism and community service was strong. The desire to help protect a community in times of emergency was a common bond that linked together a social group who enjoyed friendship and neighborly comradery.
Sadly, the volunteer fire service continues to go the way of the country’s most recognizable service organizations. The Jaycees, Lions, Moose and Rotary clubs all report sharp declines in membership in recent history. We believe that there are still a great many people in and around Neshannock Township with a compassionate spirit and an adventurous nature who would thrive as a member of our organization. But a thirst for the adrenaline rush of battling a fire or rescuing someone from a precarious situation is only half of what draws people to the fire service. The desire to be part of a social group is the other half of the equation. The modern appeal of social relationships has changed. The extent of one’s “social network” is now measured by a tally of virtual interactions that span the globe but may only exist in the blue glow of an electronic screen.
The fire service social network includes volunteers who make their living as electricians, carpenters, engineers, computer programmers, nurses, retailers and many other occupations. Each brings a unique and valuable skillset to our operation and each finds fulfillment in their service. The people in this social network are those that immediately drop what they are doing to extinguish a house fire, rescue a stranded kayaker, and even pump out a flooded basement. But these people will also abandon their daily routine to help each other repair a leaky roof or shovel a snow-covered sidewalk. I wonder how many Instagram followers would deliver the same level of service in a moment’s notice. There is an indescribable bond that develops among those who work side by side in sometimes-treacherous circumstances. There is a trust among the people who are responsible for protecting the lives of friends and neighbors that simply cannot be expressed with the most clever Snapchat filter.
As I think back on my 20 years volunteering, I can easily see that the fire service has augmented my circle of trusted friends, but it has also impacted other important areas of my life. Critical thinking skills, stress management, and task prioritization are valuable skills honed in the fire service that I use daily in by private sector career. In fact, the most fortuitous steps along my career path were introduced to me through the relationships I’ve developed in the fire service.
I invite you to expand your own “social network” to include real, in-person interaction with others sharing in the rewarding experience of helping your neighbors in times of need. Your participation in the fire service not only helps keep the community safe and taxes low, but it also rewards you with immeasurable personal benefits. The excitement of unique training opportunities and exhilaration of high-stakes responses are intensified when you are surrounded with friends who share your passion.
If you have an interest in firefighting or any aspect of public safety, we welcome you to fuel your interest with us. If you’re new to the area, there’s no better way to become acclimated to the community than to participate in one of its core operations. Or perhaps you are just looking for a change in your same routine. Stop in to the fire station to see what kinds of things we do; you may be pleasantly surprised.
There is room in our fire service tribe for men and women of all ages and of all backgrounds. We have positions available for suppression firefighters, rescue technicians, emergency medical providers, and administrative staff. We hope that you will consider joining our social network to find fulfillment in friendship and service.