While firefighters are often faced with the difficulty of retirement after a lifetime of fighting for the community, West Albany Fire Company #2 decided that giving back did not have to end there.
With 2015 just beginning, the New York Retired Firefighters Association (NYRVFA) is starting its effort anew to get new members to join. As of last week, the nearly 6-month-old association had about 100 members, and that number is slowly growing.
“Our biggest thing was that we wanted to see if there was something we could do for the people who put in many, many years volunteering, and instead of putting them out to pasture, that we could perform some kind of function and keep them going,” said NYRVFA senior member Mark Stella. “It’s a tough thing to put aside after all those years.”
Many firefighters, like Stella and NYRVFA spokesperson Jim Mitchell, have decades of experience in the field. Stella said with his father being a firefighter, he grew up in the firehouse.
“My father, he’s still a member. He’s still alive at 87 years old, so I was born and raised at the firehouse,” Stella said.
NYRVFA headquarters now sits at the West Albany Fire Company #2 firehouse, at 36 Osborne Road. It’s know as the “home of the dinosaurs, and was created with such long-term firefighters in mind.
After decades of service, either the job becomes too physically demanding, or something else forces volunteer firefighters to hang up the helmet. The job, though, is a difficult one to give up.
“But after doing it for so long, you still have this need to want to volunteer and do what you’ve been doing after all these years. You’ll still want to give back to the community and help out and see what you can do. In that fashion, it sort just gets in your blood. You just can’t put it in the closet and lock it away,” said Stella.
NYRVFA welcomes retired volunteer firefighters statewide with a $25 application fee that includes first year dues and a t-shirt. Mitchell said that volunteers were also welcome to simply stop by the headquarters to share their experiences and stories, whether they are passing through the area, or want to join.
The association is not closed to current firefighters, either, because Mitchell said, one day they’ll be retired too. Membership is also not limited to the Capital District. Calls from as far north as Plattsburgh and as far south as Long Island have been coming in. The goal is to get enough members in the coming years to parade with different associations as conventions are held throughout the year, like volunteers are used to doing in firefighter’s associations.
“We’re open to our fellow firefighters. We have a nice, friendly atmosphere where we are, and we’d just like them to come and share some of their experiences with us,” Mitchell said.
While the association was formed last summer, NYRVFA decided to fully begin its efforts this year to be sure all paperwork was in order. However, the association has already held a Toys for Tots drive and sponsored a local family for Christmas. In the coming year, Super Bowl and NASCAR parties will be held at the firehouse, and NYRVFA will host golf tournaments and Mother’s Day flower sales.
The headquarters is open to community events, like blood drives and school programs. Already, a woman’s group holds meetings each Wednesday evening in the hall to do arts and crafts. Basically, Stella said, the association looks for ways to continue helping the community after no longer being able to volunteer at the fire company.
“Everybody else has their association. The veterans have theirs, there’s an Elks Club, or an Eagles Club. Different things like that. So we came up with this idea to form this association and to open it up statewide, because we felt that, obviously, if we’re in this same situation, that there are other people who are facing the same problems,” said Stella.
For information about NYRVFA, visit nyrvfa.com, or call 459-6332.