The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 26, 2013

Fire company offers cash to help recruit young volunteers

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— HUMMELS WHARF — To boost membership, the Hummels Wharf Fire Company is offering $2,000 in cash to area college students who volunteer for two years.

Incentives have been on the table for a year, but so far there have been no takers, Deputy Fire Chief John Grove said.

The fire company has been experiencing the same difficulty in retaining and recruiting volunteer firefighters as many other departments and formed a task force in 2002 to address that issue and problems with antiquated equipment.

Grant applications proved successful, as well as financial assistance from Monroe Township, Valley businesses and residents, in upgrading the station and equipment, but Grove said the company has failed for the past six years to secure a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant for retention and recruitment of members.

Hummels Wharf Fire Company has 20 active members who respond to about 400 calls annually, including fires, medical emergencies and vehicle accidents.

Many of the volunteers have been involved for years. Grove has served the department for nearly 50 years, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who joined 99 years ago.

“We’re not getting any younger and the pool is shrinking,” he said.

The average member is in his mid-40s, and the company needs more volunteers like 22-year-old Dylan Hoover.

“My great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all (fire) chiefs. I grew up in the fire company,” Hoover said.

He encourages young men and women to get involved.

“I’d tell them to give it a try,” Hoover said. “If nothing else, they’ll get an experience out of it.”

To fill the membership pool, the company is offering incentives, including paying the training costs of new members and paying $1,000 a year in cash to university students who join for a minimum of two years and agree to provide a certain number of hours each month to the department.

The money is coming from the department’s equipment fund and from an anonymous donor, Grove said, adding that the SAFER grant could allow them to expand the incentives with new computers.

The cash and free training offer was advertised twice in the Susquehanna University campus newspaper last year and specified it would be for tuition assistance, Grove said.

When no student took up the offer, the fire company decided to simply offer a cash incentive and plans to announce it through campus radio ads as well when the fall semester begins next month.

Grove said the students would be asked to volunteer during the day when most long-serving members are at work.

He added the fire station located on the Old Trail has even more incentives: wireless Internet, a lounge and weight room.

“They could still be studying in the fire hall,” Grove said.