Pam Dudding Contributing writer
There are those who believe that today’s younger generation is causing problems. However, there are others who have taken strides to provide avenues for today’s youth to have a vision and a responsibility, as well as a place for comradery and fun, while teaching them to be part of their community.
At the winter meeting of the Upper Craigs Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Chief Shawn Matheney said, “We’ve worked so hard together and accomplished so many things this year. I could go on and on forever about our accomplishments this year, but I won’t. I feel our biggest accomplishment this year was starting the junior program.”
He added with strong sentiment, that without the Junior Squad, the fire department was destined for the same result that it had just went through.
“In starting the Junior program and growing our own members in house, it is an accomplishment above all else because they are the future of our fire department,” Matheney said, adding, “I think we have some of the best juniors that any fire department could ever ask for. These kids have gone out this year and worked hand in hand with adults and accomplished more than you could expect kids to ever accomplish.”
He shared that while on a call or training, “none of the youth ever griped about the hard work, complained, got tired, quit, or went off playing. The juniors were in it to the end.”
Allen “Toad” Nicholson, Bryan Grabow and Shannon Palmer serve as the junior counselors for the UCCVFD.
They recognized some Jr. members that participated before they started the program, recognizing them as charter junior members. They are Cora Arritt, Doug Yiesley, Carly Allen, Katherine Allen and Chris Matheney.
“When we started this program, some rules were accepted from another Volunteer Fire Department. We reduced the 175 rules and took it to 25-30 rules,” Nicholson shared.
Decisions were to have officers and the following were chosen and honored at the meeting: Isaac Lucas (Lieutenant), Katherine Allen (Jr. Captain), and Carly Allen (Secretary).
“At the last meeting, the Jr. Squad voted for its Member of the Year,” Nicholson said with emotion. “It was a difficult decision to pick just one member, therefore we made you all junior members of the year, presenting certificates. I just want to let you know that you have done a really good job and we look forward to doing a lot more with you. We older ones aren’t going to be around forever. We just want to say thank you from all of us.”
The attendees then gave the Jr. Squad a big round of applause and shouts.
The Jr. Squad currently consists of Cora Arritt, Doug Yeisley, Jeremiah Lucas, Benny Arritt, Carly Allen, Ava Greenway, Chris Matheney, Isaac Lucas, Hunter Jackson, Katherine Allen and Alex Drake.
Nicholson also recognized Carly Allen, Katherine Allen and Hunter Jackson.
“On Thanksgiving Day, they chose to leave their dinner table and came out and worked their butts off, harder than some of us grown senior members,” Nicholson shared. “I couldn’t be more proud of these three. These guys didn’t complain one bit.”
He continued, “These guys came to the fire scene geared up, ready to work and did not have a problem. Katherine had the hose slung over her shoulder for over 25 minutes, dragging that hose. That is amazing for a young lady to do that. Everyone of them had a tool or a hose in their hands the whole time.” Handclaps and many whooos were shouted out for them.
They noted that for the juniors who do not have gear, they are working hard trying to get donations from other departments.
Matheney came back to the podium, adding, “For those who do not know, it seems me may be really working these juniors. But we have also built one heck of a game room at the fire house for them to use and have a place to relax and get away from everything.”
They have an air hockey table, card table, checkers, dartboard, foosball and are getting a pool table too.
“I have preached that from the get-go that we want the fire house to be a place for everybody to come and relax and enjoy being there,” Matheney said. “Yes, we do a ton of hard work but when it’s play time… we play. The fire department is a place where teenagers should be able to come and hang out. I know for me as a junior, I looked forward to being able to be at the firehouse every evening or weekend. It gave me an outlet, a purpose and something to do and it kept me out of trouble.”
He noted, “I can stand right here and say that probably 95 percent of them worked harder than some of our techs ever did. With that being said, I would like for us to continue to grow the junior squad as a department.”
Matheney explained, “I kept saying baby steps baby steps, but we were jumping ten-foot at a time sometimes. It has paid off. Over the next year, I want us to continue to grow and build with the same enthusiasm as we had this past year.”
The Squad invites the community to come and enjoy a Valentine Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser on Saturday, February 12, from noon until 4 p.m. either through dine in, drive up or carry out. Concluded Matheny, “We hope to see you there as we work hard towards getting the equipment that we need for our Jr Squad.”