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Volunteer recruiting response questioned

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli questioned why fire and rescue volunteers aren't doing more to help the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue in volunteer recruitment efforts.

The county is among 20 agencies in the state selected for a Virginia Fire Chiefs Association study using geographic information system analysis.

"It kind of gives us a snapshot of the demographics of our current volunteer force," county Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew said in a Tuesday afternoon interview. "It also gives us a snapshot of who within the county based on that may also be good candidates to be part of the volunteer system."

That allows the department to concentrate its efforts on suitable targets.

"We've picked some particular venues that kind of parallel with what the GIS data has provided," Yew said.

The analysis shows that likely candidates are interested in cars, machinery, do-it-yourself projects and gardening, he said. The grant provided banners to hang at stations, as well as pamphlets, Yew said.

During Tuesday's supervisors' meeting, Baroncelli said she wanted to encourage the volunteer departments to join Yew and service assistant Shannon Johnson in their recruitment efforts.

"[I was] very saddened by the response and participation of volunteer companies," she said. "I would like to hear from them as to why they're not participating or supporting these grant efforts, why we can't even get banners hung up at their fire departments."

Yew said he agreed with Baroncelli. He said he thought the agencies would "jump all over" the recruitment campaign.

Yew noted the county Department of Fire and Rescue has been criticized for many years for not doing enough to help recruit more volunteers.

In the afternoon interview, Yew said volunteer agencies have been helping in a limited way.

"A lot of it is simply due to time constraints," he said. "It's tough for them to make commitments.

"I know we've not seen a lot of banners put up."

Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Association President Preston Stempler, who is the Fort Valley Fire chief, said he wasn't aware volunteer participation in the recruitment drive was lacking.

"If you look at my fire hall, there's two banners on the front of it," he said. "We're all for this retention and recruitment program, and it's really an impressive scientific marketing program. [It] came up with [the] ideal recruit and where to find them. I think it's going to take time to generate some momentum."

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