Niagara Gazette — Many organizations rely heavily on the support of volunteer workers to help their day-to-day operations run smoothly. When you have an organization that is run solely by volunteers, it becomes absolutely vital to compose a group of hardworking, dedicated individuals.
Volunteer fire companies are one example. Finding people to work for free has never been an easy task and the search is often never ending. To create awareness about the need for volunteer firefighters, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York is holding a statewide open house on Saturday and Sunday as part of it’s RecruitNY program.
Several fire companies throughout the area will be participating in this event, which will function like a membership drive. The goal is to bring in a new generation of volunteer firefighters by showing them that just because the job comes without pay doesn’t mean it comes without benefits.
“There used to be a waiting list to be an active firefighter here,” said Bob Brennan, president of Gratwick Hose Company, who will be having their open house on Sunday. “We have about 170 members but only eight to 10 active members. Every volunteer fire company in the state and the city is dealing with this, not just us.”
Brennan says he would like to have 20 to 25 active volunteers, and hopefully that RecruitNY 2014 will help. For many of their volunteers, their service is a family thing. Often grandfathers, fathers and sons will comprise the membership. Brennan said it’s uncommon to recruit a volunteer off the street.
Volunteer firefighters go through all of the same rigorous training and share similar duties to those of paid firefighters, with the exception of driving the fire engines. Volunteer companies are also trying to make volunteering more appealing to the 18 to 25 age bracket.
“It’s a great way to get involved, give back and benefit. We offer free college tuition, it’s 100 percent reimbursed depending on the grade,” Brennan said. “That’s something people don’t know, they can go to any community college. I’m trying to get into North Tonawanda High School to tell the seniors about that.”
For a complete list of participating companies visit www.recruitny.org/opendoors.php.Contact reporter Mia Summerson at 693-1000, ext. 4313.