‘I Wouldn’t Be Where I Am Today’

By Phyllis Dinkelacker, Athens Volunteer Fire Department

I came from a non-emergency volunteer family, so volunteering was something foreign to me. My volunteer service started with a CPR class. The instructors were members of the Rotterdam Volunteer Emergency Corps and they were talking about recruiting members and I joined. Well, that was the turning point of my life. Within the first year, I became an EMT and very active with the ambulance service.

A few years into volunteering for RVEC, a firefighter joined our organization and we became friends as we rode together and talked. One day he was telling me about the fire department. I asked him how many women were in his fire department. He said none and asked if I’d join.

It was my next big life-changing point. I thought about it, never wanting to join anything to just join it. I thought, “Am I strong enough mentally and physically to do something like that?” Yeah, I was. So, I said OK, I will join.

From day one, I felt like I was part of a family – a little dysfunctional, but a family.

So, now I tell everyone that CPR (and volunteering) saved my life!

I quit when I got pregnant and moved out of the area. I didn’t join another volunteer fire department until my son turned 16, when I became a member of the Athens Volunteer Fire Department.

Now I may not be a firefighter, but like every volunteer, I found my place in my department. I am a member of the fire police.

If I hadn’t taken that CPR class, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I met my husband through the mutual friends of our volunteer service, I became active in my communities and I have a very different life than I did when I took that first CPR class. I have met some very interesting and wonderful people over the last 32-plus years and wouldn’t change any part of what volunteering has done for me.

So, now I tell everyone that CPR (and volunteering) saved my life!