Sperryville column for July 28

Fires and rescues and . . . volunteers

A number of years ago, while living in Harris Hollow, I suffered a severe horseback riding accident. Luckily, I was discovered by a neighbor, and immediately rushed to Fauquier Hospital’s ER. Had it not been for the prompt and efficient response of dedicated volunteers of Rappahannock’s fire and rescue corps, I’m sure I would’ve sustained significantly more physical trauma. Please note the emphasis on volunteer.

These selfless folks who make up Rappahannock County’s emergency response crews are not paid for their work, and while they come to our aid on an almost-daily basis, they are now asking us for our aid, and it’s an urgent request.

This Sunday (July 31) at 1 p.m., the Sperryville Volunteer Rescue and Sperryville Volunteer Fire companies invite you to a joint community meeting, with lunch and activities for kids provided, to discuss the need for additional volunteers, and for our ideas and overall help.

Writes Judy Reidinger, first lieutenant with Sperryville Rescue: “We urgently need volunteers to serve our community. Experience not required. We will train; all training paid for. We need drivers, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), fire personnel and support volunteers (checking medical supplies on the ambulances, admin, fundraising and help with stations). Volunteers can be age 14 or 16 on up, and active retirees or others with flexible schedules are especially helpful. You can help with whatever time you can give. We are proud of our quality of service, and companies work together, but it is difficult to get enough volunteers, especially weekdays and nights. Without more volunteers soon, the county may have to go to paid staff, raising taxes. EMS volunteering is a wonderful way to serve your community. It gives lifelong skills, which can help family and friends, and often leads to careers. Join the team! Please contact your local fire and/or rescue squad or members to get more information.”

SVFD President Larry Grove shares his thoughts as well: “Volunteer for the sake of volunteering, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about folks who practice their lives with ‘l close my gate and I can take care of myself’ philosophies. It’s a feel good activity, it’s about our community, and heck you can volunteer as a youngster as young as 14. They can help with flyers and clean the equipment, get up on those red fire trucks and older kids can take EMT classes and drive ambulances and trucks. Some of our young people took advantage and rightly so of all the paid courses and are now professional first responders, and well paid in neighboring counties. It’s a win-win for all of us. Even if you only have two hours a week to volunteer, we welcome your help. We’d love to see a huge turnout at our community meeting on July 31 at 1 p.m., and remember that free lunch.”

Richie Burke, the county’s emergency management coordinator and SVFD deputy chief, writes: “I have been a volunteer for 33 years at the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department. and it has been a rewarding experience being able to help people in their time of need. I have served in every position in the organization over that time period including chief for 18 years. The recruitment and retention of volunteers has changed a lot over the last 10 to 15 years. We have limited resources of youth to recruit from, due to lack of affordable housing, jobs and interest. Most of the youth that we do recruit and retain have family ties to fire and rescue. Lots of families today find that both adults have to work and many commute and just don’t have the time to volunteer and train. We also compete for a limited pool of volunteers with other county organizations also looking for volunteers. This isn’t only a county problem, it’s a national problem. So we would encourage people to come out and visit with us on the 31st, have lunch and discuss the problems and hopefully we can recruit some new volunteers. A paid fire and rescue system is going to be huge burden on the county taxpayer; so many people forget that we as volunteers pay taxes, too.”

Good luck on your recruiting efforts, you are all true heroes and thanks for your spirit, selflessness and continued service to our community.

Contact Sperryville Rescue at 540-987-8085 or Sperryville Fire at 540-987-8124 for information on the meeting, or to go ahead and tell them you intend to volunteer!

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