Even with a busy life that includes family responsibilities and a career as the director of health and safety for a large company, the fire service is a major part of Jeremy Drehmer’s identity.
“Every person I know, knows that I am a member of Abingdon Fire Company,” he says. He has been asked to speak at his kids’ elementary school, his neighbors’ kids’ day care, and has installed smoke detectors for an elderly neighbor. He once even performed CPR on a neighbor.
“We need more people willing to truly serve,” he says. “The training and experience that I’ve gained have allowed me to truly have an impact.”
Drehmer first followed his father into the volunteer fire service Middle River, and later joined Abingdon because it was the closest fire company to where he lived, he says. He has since served Abingdon in different capacities, including as assistant chief.
A key trait to success in the fire service, he says, is to be selfless. You have to be willing to make sacrifices in your own life to help others.
That said, Drehmer also sees volunteering as a personal benefit. “I take a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction in volunteering,” he says. “I do it for me. I love it. The camaraderie, the friendships. Some of my closest friends are ones I made through the department.”
The lighter moments are a chance to have fun, relax and not worry about the stresses of regular life, he says. Plus, there are tangible benefits, he notes, including a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP), and Abingdon’s scholarship program for families.
And while all the members love going on calls, some of Drehmer’s most cherished experiences come from conducting training. “Seeing people move up and knowing that you’ve trained them… and seeing those guys training others. It’s a continued legacy,” he says.
Drehmer is also especially proud to have helped his fire company improve its performance over the years to keep up with its call volume. “The level that our team has stepped up and answered the call to meet the demands of people calling 911 gives me great satisfaction in knowing I was a part of driving that improvement,” he says.
For anyone considering joining the department, Drehmer recommends committing to stay a while. “A lot of people come and go. They don’t stick around for long,” he says. “You have to find your place. Give people the benefit of doubt. If you give it a chance you’ll find the right spot.”
Insert yourself and be outgoing, he advises. And by putting in more time and training than you might for other volunteer opportunities, “The rewards are so much greater.”