BY: Bethany Melvin, Max Hendrix & Rachel Sherman
Established in 1971, Greenwood Volunteer Fire and Rescue began its mission. 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the station is saving lives in their section of Frederick County, Virginia. In the year of 2017, Greenwood ran 2,213 total fire and EMS calls, with approximately 1,800 of those being EMS. On average, Greenwood runs about seven calls a day.
Two of Greenwood’s most valued members, Chief Eddie Keeler and President Danny Cunningham, have been involved in the fire department for more than 30 years. Keeler grew up in the Middletown area, and became involved in firefighting because of his father’s influence. Both attribute their involvement to their father’s, as both had strong presences in firefighting. Growing up around the fire department makes a strong impact, as Keeler’s father helped build the station in Middletown that is currently in use. Cunningham’s father has built a legacy at Greenwood, which is still present today with a majority of the family being involved. Keeler joined Greenwood in 1975, and Cunningham in 1977 with a 23 year break.
Providing a service such as this requires a lot of funding, a budget of over $200,000 a year to be exact, which is primarily accomplished through fundraising. The county provides a supplement, which is very appreciated, but there are still overflowing costs to be accounted for. “To keep ourselves operating, we have to have fundraisers to keep our heads above water. We want to operate in the black, and not in the red, and that’s the only way we can do it.” These fundraisers raise money that go toward expenses within the fire department, such as the most recent fire truck purchased that cost $912,000, not including the cost of any extra equipment, and purchasing an ambulance is also in the near future. Greenwood is ever growing and expanding both in their equipment and staff.
All of the fundraising events put on by Greenwood are well known and established, and the community looks forward to them year round. With this being said, members don’t look at these events as a chore, but enjoy being present and in the company of their community they serve. It’s a unique experience, because everyone is excited to be there. The most successful fundraising event is the annual door to door fund drive, where members ride in apparatuses and walk up and down the streets in the community collecting donations from the public. Greenwood is the only volunteer company in Frederick County that still puts on this event, as all of the companies have done it at one time. Look for Greenwood’s yellow fire trucks and members in your neighborhood and don’t be shy to answer the door, even if it is just to interact with your hometown heroes. This event is important not only to raise money for the department, but it is also used as a training tool. Members of the company get to know their area even better, by learning street names, house numbers, where people live, and locations of fire hydrants. It’s a win win for everyone, “it helps us out a lot” states Keeler. Cunningham knows, “We’re really fortunate that we get excellent support from Frederick County, and all over. Keeler also suggests, “Participation is really good. [The annual fund drive] is the only time [the community] sees us come with our hands out. For some people it’s an aggravation, for other people they’re glad.”
With this being said, an organization and community favorite fundraising event is the annual yard party, hosted for a week in the summer months. Items are put up for sale as well as some of the best home cooked food in Winchester. Other events are included such as the car show, an auction, a cake walk, and many raffles. It seems as though in the course of a week, the entire community is brought together in a fashion that is rarely seen in today’s time. This is the case for all of Greenwood’s fundraisers, as it is like a jump back through time where the community is brought together to simply enjoy each other’s company, and forget about everything else. Keeler reminises that, “A lot of people come to participate in some of our functions so they can meet their old friends that they haven’t seen in years. It works out well.” Keeler also agrees that sometimes we get so caught in up life that, “we’re too busy to talk,” and that is one of the many things to love about these community events, is that all of that is forgotten.
With the sound of sirens, flying down the road at high-speed‘s, and the adrenaline from saving lives it’s easy to say this job is throwing. But with this being said, being in this field is not an easy task, as it takes a very special person. Cunningham suggests that it is, “a person that wants to contribute to the organization, give back to the community.” Keeler adds to that by saying, “in my opinion it’s someone that wants to serve the community and provide a service. My belief is a volunteer wants to give back. Wants to give to the community, but also wants to provide a good service, and help their neighbor.”
Not only is it a difficult job, but it is also a thankless one. It is a common trait for first responders to be humble, and not searching for gratitude, and that is certainly a trait found in both of these heroic men. The amount of time put into serving one’s community by keeping it safe is often not recognized. Cunningham is thankful for the support he is given, and states, “Being able to work with all the other volunteers to be able to make the events a success. It’s a privilege that they’ve elected me as the president, and the a person to be the designated leader but yet the support that they all provide in order to make particular events a success makes being the president really easy for me.”
Every call that Greenwood is dispatched to, an impact is made whether it be by the volunteers, the paid personnel, or the organization as a whole. Cunningham and Keeler agree that their favorite thing about their job is, “When you come back from a call and know that you’ve done a good job. Safety of a life, personal property, or you’ve protected somebody from harm. We don’t normally get a pat on the back, or a ‘thank you’ from anybody, it’s just knowing that you’ve done the best that you could do.” While much is sacrificed to be a devoted volunteer, in the end it is worth it. A lot of time is dedicated to these heroes work, and with this responsibility some things may not always be a first priority, or personal things may get pushed to the side when duty calls. This is something that many people do not realize, nor appreciate enough.
In Cunningham’s words, a hero is, “someone who continuously gives, and makes a positive impact on either the community or other individuals without worrying about any type of gratuity or thanks.” This could not define these two brave men any better, as every day they give their all into their job, and put their life on the line to make our community a safer place.
Volunteers are always needed, and the need is not going away anytime soon. Unfortunately, volunteering is not a common passion like it used to be. Keeler informs how difficult it is find volunteers in today’s time, and how “Volunteers is turning into a dying breed. It’s hard to get volunteers these days, that want or fit into the mold that pretty well you have to have to be a true volunteer.” He attributes this to the differences in today’s existing generations, and realizes things are different but is hopeful to continue this organization’s mission for years to come. Cunningham says, “In order to volunteer, you don’t automatically have to start as a fireman or an EMS provider. You can get to know organization, get to know the people, and gradually get involved. I think a lot of people are scared when they hear the word fire, the word EMS, blood, accident, but there’s a lot more to it than just that and overtime you can grow into those types of things to help.” Keeler suggests that, “It’s a fear of the unknown. Unless you try it, you’ll never know. sometimes you’ve got to get your feet wet before you can dive in. If you fail, it’s no big deal, just don’t give up.”