January 5th is a special day on the calendar for me. It’s the day my late grandfather, Pan, (my role model) was born in 1904 in New Creek, WV. So, it’s fitting that someone is highlighted from my hometown that has dedicated their adult life to serving the community.
“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to everyone….” ~ Galatians 6:9-10 (The Bible)
I’m guessing that I may have only interacted with Dustin a couple of times as an adult. I moved away when he was five years old. But I know, and have great admiration and respect for, his mother and father. I know his uncles and the families of most of the men and women that volunteer alongside him in the little community of less than one thousand. My family owes a debt of gratitude to all those that have faithfully undertaken the emergency service responsibilities needed in small town USA.
So, I reached out to him recently and asked, “Why do you serve?”
“It’s pretty much all that I’ve ever known. You just help others when they need it. My family is probably the biggest influence on this. My dad has been a member of the fire department since before I was born, so I pretty much grew up in the fire station. 40+ years later, he is still our most active volunteer. My paternal grandfather joined the department only a few months after it was incorporated. Four of my five uncles served at some point in their lives as well. Now my sister has also joined. My mother has always helped with various community activities, being involved in the PTA while we were kids, and now heavily involved with the food bank at the Keyser Assembly of God Church. I have been lucky enough to find a wife that shows the same devotion to people and our community. She is a nurse, but she goes so much further than just taking care of people. She has bought clothes, donated money, and performed other out of the ordinary (for today) tasks for others in need, behind the scenes.
I also feel that God has a purpose for everyone, a specialty, or a reason for existing. Although it can be difficult at times, I feel that I am able to help people in circumstances where most are unable to do so. In 25 years, I have seen things that people should not – ranging from gruesome deaths to emotionally draining situations. However, I can process this and continue to serve. While not everyone is able to handle these situations, there are many other responsibilities in the line of work that I do that can be performed by others. I feel that God has granted me the ability to help others in this way. Unfortunately, I do not possess the skills to work on cars, build houses, and such, so this is how I not only help others, but make a living with my career.
Living in a small and unincorporated community, we have no formal leadership. Serving in the fire department, and as the Fire Chief, I feel as if this provides at least some level of leadership and guidance for our citizens.
When I ask myself why I continue to serve and help the community, I always come back to the same answer(s).
- Why not? I’m doing what I would hope someone else would do for me if I were to need help.
- If I don’t, who will? We are seeing fewer and fewer people wanting to take on the responsibility of taking care of people. The Fire/EMS service is beginning to struggle to find people who want to help others, especially in the volunteer setting.
- It’s just the right thing to do. Serving others is just what we should be doing.”
I am humbled and honored to know several people, including one of our servers @ BWW Bear, Josh Leavery, as well as family members in New Jersey & Florida, that volunteer or are employed in different capacities in our communities and are faithfully committed to answer the call.
Thank you for your service.