Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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What good are volunteers?

About 40 years ago, a young man from Toledo, OH, was visiting here when his father-in-law had a hay pile hit by lightning. GVFD was called and responded quickly. The man could not believe that all the firemen were volunteers. He had seen paid professional firefighters back home who did not work as efficiently or as hard. He commented, “The guys acted like it was their own hay they were trying to save.”

In the late ’70s, Police chief G.R. (Bob) Shackleton came to me as the GVFD rescue captain. He asked if our volunteers could help out his paid policemen by responding to car accidents, etc. when there was an injury. We had 25 EMTs and a new, fully equipped rescue unit. The city had an old ambulance with little equipment and no EMTs. After many City Council meetings and Fire Department meetings, we reached a workable agreement. I believe this has evolved into the best emergency health protection you could ask for.

Twenty years ago, I was a volunteer fireman in Hastings where they also have a full time paid fire department. When the paid guys take vacation or are ill, the city pays the volunteers to fill in. You are expected to do and know the same things as the full time guys. It works very well and even though we were just volunteers, we were treated as equals.

Eighteen years ago I was renovating a large old bank building and had all my plans approved by the building inspector. Later I applied for the building permit and was told I needed an engineer. This held me up about two months and cost me $1,800. When the carpenter started to build the stairway, the new plan was incomplete. We ended up using my plan. Later, I let another contractor go because I had a retired volunteer from my church who did better work and wouldn’t take any money. We had to redo much of what the contractor did.

In all the years I was a shop teacher, I usually had projects of my own. When I didn’t have students before or after school, I was often working on my stuff. Many times a student would ask what I was building. I often said I was making something for my church, the Lions Club or the Historical Museum. The next question was usually “How much are you getting paid?” My answer was “nothing” and their response was “Why would you do something for nothing?” I tried to explain that there are actually other rewards that can be more valuable than money.

Many good things have been done in Gothenburg by volunteers. Many of those volunteers have more training and much more experience than some contractors or professionals that are still working and getting paid big bucks for it. Two good quotes—“You don’t always get what you pay for” and “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Milan Franzen, Gothenburg