Prince Edward EMS volunteers call for solutions

Published 10:21 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

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Members of Hampden-Sydney Fire and Rescue and the Prince Edward Rescue Squad came to Tuesday night’s meeting with a message: instead of getting upset about volunteer numbers being down, it’s time to look for solutions. 

“Instead of pointing fingers as to why volunteering is down, I’d ask the board of supervisors to consider ways to improve the situation and look for solutions,” said Connor Eickelman. The senior at Hampden-Sydney College has served as a volunteer with Company 2 at Hampden-Sydney Fire and Rescue for three and a half years. He’s also volunteered for Prince Edward Rescue for the last two and a half years, while also working as an employee of Meherrin Fire and Rescue for the past year and a half. 

Yes, volunteering is down, Eickelman said, adding he’s seen it firsthand over the past three and a half years. But he encouraged supervisors to look at new programs. One of those involves property tax relief for volunteers, as suggested by the Prince Edward County Association of Fire Departments. Eickelman also suggested the county consider a ‘live-in’ program. Fayetteville, New York, for example, offers a program where college students get free in-quarters living in exchange for volunteer fire and EMS service throughout the course of the academic year. They also get needed training. 

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“I would like for all of us to work together to support this community we all care about and that we’ve all sacrificed a tremendous amount of our time and energy for,” Eickelman said, “as opposed to pointing fingers and casting aspersions and blame on people who may be younger than us.” 

The younger generation 

Carter Spawn, meanwhile, spoke with a bit of a raspy voice on Tuesday. The junior at Hampden-Sydney College said he’s still getting over something he caught while on a call. But he wanted to be clear he loves the county and the work he does, be that at Meherrin Fire and Rescue or at Hampden-Sydney Fire, where he was recently elected as the assistant chief. 

EMS Volunteers

Hampden-Sydney Assistant Chief Carter Spawn asked supervisors to have more conversations with the younger volunteers, rather than criticizing someone based on their age.

“I spend more time here than I do at home,” Spawn said, talking about his work around the area. He also acknowledged that it’s hard to get college students involved, but it’s something he spends a lot of time doing, recruiting volunteers. 

But placing blame as to why there are fewer volunteers isn’t helpful, Spawn said. It doesn’t help bring more volunteers through the door or keep the ones who are here now. 

“Hopefully we can have better dialogue, less finger pointing,” Spawn said. 

The two men were referring to comments made by Prince Edward Supervisor David Emert during the board’s regular March meeting. Discussing the need for more volunteers, Emert criticized the younger generation, saying “young people don’t have the drive to work, let’s just be straight up honest about it. They don’t have the drive to work, like the majority of us grew up.” 

Emert said at Tuesday’s meeting that while he feels it was slightly taken out of context, he takes full credit for what he said and stands by it. At the same time, he thanked each member of the fire and rescue teams who showed up to either speak or support those who did. 

“I appreciate each and every one of you who are here,” Emert said. “I appreciate the ones of you who do volunteer. Thanks for being here and continue the good work.”