MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) Men and women were recognized Monday night at the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors meeting for volunteering in their area for 40 years or more in fire or rescue squads.
37 total people were honored who have each volunteered at least 40 years, some close to 60 years at the Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Ellison, Long Shop McCoy, Riner, and Shawsville fire departments and rescue squads.
In total, these men and women combined for 1,673 years of service.
That's all fire and rescue service tax-free to the area, with great quality service.
Montgomery County Emergency Services Coordinator Neal Turner said, "They're getting people who want to do this for a hobby, and I don't know about you, but what I do for a hobby I do a lot more aggressive than I do just for a paycheck."
The list of those honored Monday include a man who was once legally blind and now has his vision restored through a cornea transplant, a cancer survivor, a teacher, a student, a mortician, a pastor, a truck driver, a police officer, a school bus driver, a mechanic, a realtor, a purchasing agent, a high school principal, a business owner, and a lab technician.
Many of the men and women honored Monday night are still active at their squads.
Some said they got into the volunteer work because they felt a calling to do it.
Roger Bryant retired after 40 years of volunteering.
He said, "I just wanted to do something to help the community. I had just gotten out of service and had done medical work and some training there, so I just decided to try it."
Others said it runs in the family and always made sense to continue the work.
Alfred Smith is still volunteering at the Blacksburg Fire Department after 46 years.
He explained, "I've actually been there all of my life. My dad was a chartered member, then me, my son is Assistant Chief of the Fire Department and my grandson, who is 13, is itching to be of age so he can."
Squads need more young people like Smith's grandson who want to volunteer, as volunteer numbers are continuing to dwindle.
That and current members are battling illnesses and even dying, as one man honored Monday died this year from M.S.
The hope is, seeing these long-serving volunteers will send a strong message to those looking to volunteer.
Turner, who was also recognized for 40 years of volunteering Monday, said, "It's about helping people and developing a friendship and a family. Many of the folks here tonight, we sort of grew up together."
This recognition began in 2016 with men and women who had volunteered at least 50 years, known as Gold Members.
The 40 year volunteers from Monday are Silver Members.
In 2018, Montgomery County will recognize volunteers who have served at least 35 years, all as a way to say thank you for stepping up.