Ringing Hill Marks Volunteer Campaign’s First Year
LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – In the period of slightly more than a year since the Ringing Hill Fire Company launched a federally funded campaign to recruit and retain volunteer members, company officials happily report they are exceeding their drive’s initial goals.
Ringing Hill, located on White Pine Lane on the township’s north side, had a total of 29 members when its recruitment-and-retention program began and hoped to attract five new volunteers annually between 2019 and 2022. Instead, during the first year alone, it drew 27 new members from among a total of 50 inquiries.
“We gained members that we probably would not have without the campaign,” Chief Bud Lightcap acknowledges. “We are able to get trucks out with a crew during daytime hours, which we were not able to do on a consistent basis before.”
Better still, according to the company, its growth comes at no cost to township taxpayers.
The four-year campaign is funded entirely through a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It covers the recruitment effort, as well as a retention-oriented “volunteer shift program” that enhanced the company’s daytime response for emergency calls which Lightcap considers important.
The campaign kicked off with the launch of a new website, JoinRingingHill.org. It encouraged volunteers to “Reach New Heights at the Hill,” and encompassed all opportunities from which volunteers can benefit at Ringing Hill with support materials that refer back to the website. It also heightened public awareness of both firefighting and Ringing Hill through media coverage, videos, social media, a recruitment brochure, lawn signs, and an outdoor booth display for community events.
The grant reportedly also has strengthened Ringing Hill’s relationship with the township’s first emergency responder organization, the Sanatoga Fire Company on East High Street. As a result of the campaign “some of our firefighters have joined Ringing Hill and participated in their volunteer shift program,” Sanatoga Fire Chief Eric Linsenbigler explains. That’s “brought the two companies closer together,” he adds.
“We have hosted joint trainings and have had altogether better communication,” Linsenbigler noted. “It makes me feel much better as an incident commander to know that I have a staffed truck with three firefighters coming to help during the day when manpower is difficult to find.”
New Members, New Experiences
Volunteer firefighter Jen Hinkley (above at right, with fellow firefighter Steve Ughy) came to Ringing Hill in September 2020. She decided to join after moving to the area and living there for a year, and now says she wished she had signed up sooner. “This is something I wanted to do a long time ago, and I’m glad to start with the best group of people I can count on,” she says.
Although Hinkley’s been there only a few months, she says it feels like longer. The reason: a supportive atmosphere. Since joining she’s learned new firefighting skills from knowledgeable companions and trainers, and is soon scheduled to start lessons at the Montgomery County Fire Academy. “I love every moment of training and getting to know everyone,” Hinkley says.
Other new members are already active with other fire companies or departments. Long-time firefighter Joe Oberholtzer has been volunteering at Ringing Hill Fire Company for about a year, but he’s been a member at Sanatoga since 2005 and with the Norristown Fire Department since 1983.
“Having been a firefighter for more than 30 years, I would have to say the brotherhood and honor of serving the community are what I enjoy most,” Oberholtzer says. “So far I am very impressed with the openness and welcoming feel from everyone at Ringing Hill.”
Then there’s firefighter Ethan Crovetti (pictured at top, using a chainsaw), a member of Ringing Hill since September 2020 and of the Skippack Fire Company for more than three years. Crovetti says he has a fun time around the station; it’s among places he looks forward to coming to.
“My favorite thing about the fire service is the atmosphere that the people bring,” Crovetti says. “Just about everyone I’ve met so far has volunteered their time for the benefit of their community, and it’s really nice to work with people that share the same passion for helping others.”
Ringing Hill (above) continues to seek more volunteers, and encourages anyone interested to visit the recruitment website, here.
Photos supplied by the Ringing Hill Fire Company