Not all volunteers have to fight fires to make a difference at West Manchester Fire Department. Formerly known as administrative members, social members Matt Fishel and Laura Metzger work behind the scenes to assist with fundraising, meals, planning and much more at the department.
Matt Fishel, an official life member and social member at West Manchester Fire Department, paid his dues at a young age. He recalls his father constantly reminding him to donate to his local fire department, West Manchester Fire. In 1998, Fishel received a letter from the department with a card that named him an official life member for paying his dues 25 years in a row. Fishel carries that card with him to this day.
For Fishel, the choice to volunteer was an easy one. After becoming a life member, he started attending meetings at the firehouse and one night one of the members wrapped his arm around Fishel and said, “Okay, here’s what to do,” and took him under his wing.
Fishel hit the ground running as a volunteer. He was in charge of changing the marquee outside of Shiloh Fire Station, a company within West Manchester Fire Department, to inform the public of events and other happenings in the community. A week or two would go by after the event and the marquee would be out of date, but the fire company had nothing else to display. So, Fishel updated the sign frequently with lyrics of a top-40 song on to keep it current.
“It caught the attention of people in the community. It got to the point where I’d be changing it, and a resident would ask ‘What are you going to put on now?’” said Fishel.
Local residents loved seeing the lyrics on the marquee as they were driving by. Shiloh Fire Station has since upgraded to an electric sign but the history is preserved with photos.
Beyond updating the marquee, Fishel, would help out with the other responsibilities of social members, such as helping out with bingos, chicken dinners, banquets, and assisting with public education.
“I attend to a different kind of fire,” said Fishel.
Laura Metzger, a social member at West Manchester Fire Department, is on the Social Committee, Safety Committee and County Convention Committee. As a part of the Social Committee, she assists with planning yearly banquets, Christmas parties, and other events. On the Safety Committee Metzger helps out with trainings, public education and safety around the fire stations.
Next year Shiloh Fire Station will celebrate its 100-year anniversary, while Lincoln Way Fire Station celebrates 75 years. As a member of the County Convention Committee, Metzger helps plan these commemorations.
“It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not,” said Metzger, “in fact, it is really enjoyable.”
Metzger figured, rather than playing on her phone for an hour, she could use that time to help out in her community instead.
“I was always busy. I have three children but always made time to volunteer. Your part of this community and you should give something back to it,” said Metzger. “Anything helps.”
Typically, the volunteers help with organizing the baked goods, flower sales, tearing down or setting up the events, and socializing with the people attending. Volunteers can sign up to help with any task at any event of their choosing. No task is too small; members help with folding chairs, washing equipment or calling out bingo numbers.
No previous experience is necessary either. Social members can choose to help out for as little or as long as they like; they don’t have to dedicate a certain number of hours.
While there is no requirement for the number of hours volunteers must give, there is an opportunity to earn points based off the number of hours the volunteers serve. West Manchester has a committee devoted to keeping track of the points awarded and after retirement, the volunteers are eligible for compensation based off the points they earned. Additionally, volunteers can use these points in other way during committee meetings.
Both Fishel and Metzger describe West Manchester Fire Department as a second family. Everyone is inclusive and a lot of the volunteers enjoy hanging around the firehouse.
“It’s a stress-free atmosphere and you make it fun because you’re talking to people about everything and anything,” said Fishel.
“I like the social aspect, there’s a lot of people in the community that maybe I haven’t seen in a while and it’s fun to catch up,” said Metzger.
“Whatever your passion is, we will find a spot for you at West Manchester Fire Department,” said Chief Clifton Laughman, “Volunteers are essential to our community and anyone is welcome to apply.”
In addition to social members, West Manchester Fire Department is also seeking volunteer Firefighters, Junior Firefighters and Fire Police. Learn more or sign up to be a volunteer at https://westmanchesterfirefighter.org/