Editor’s Note: As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, the Chester County Fire Chiefs Association and HelpFightFire.com give a special thank you to all moms who volunteer at their local fire station. Their efforts help keep Chester County lives safe.
You don’t have to fight fires to volunteer at a fire station. In fact, some of the most important work goes on far away from the flames, back at the station. Just ask Jilian Brooks and Desiree Seese.
These two moms juggle work and home-life responsibilities, while also giving of their time as administrative volunteers at the Twin Valley and Glenmoore fire companies, respectively. For them, helping out at the station is as much about helping the community as it is being part of a second family.
Jilian Brooks started volunteering at the fire station when she met her husband, Jason, in high school. He had always had an interest in the fire service and she started tagging along with him. As Jason began rising through the ranks at Twin Valley, he and Jilian started a life together. They married and have two daughters, Michaela, 17, who also serves as a junior firefighter, and 10-year-old Miranda.
Finding a balance between work, home and volunteering at the station became easier for Jilian, once volunteering became a family affair.
“As Jason became the fire chief, I knew that if it was going to work for our family, we were going to do this together,” said Jilian.
Over the last five years she has become more involved at the station and currently serves as the company secretary. Her responsibilities include taking notes during company meetings, and handling the paperwork that helps keep the company running. She also plans events like the company’s banquet, open houses, fire safety week, and serves on a number of company committees.
During the day, Jilian works at Little Mates Child Development Center in Morgantown and relishes the chance to host children’s tours of the fire station or teach fire safety.
For the Brooks family, the fire station is a home away from home.
Michaela and Miranda have practically grown up in the station, so it makes sense that they refer to the other adult station members as their aunts and uncles, and the other children as their “firehouse cousins.”
Jilian appreciates the fact that you are never too young to help out at the station. While Michaela serves as a junior firefighter, Miranda, and the other children too young to officially volunteer, still help out during training nights by cleaning the fire company kitchen, sweeping the floors and helping clean the fire trucks, among other tasks.
“The fire house is a huge part of our family,” said Jilian.
Desiree Seese: Achieving Work, Life Balance and Helping the Community
It’s not easy when you’re a working mother, student and volunteer like Desiree Seese. When she’s not working full time as an elementary school teacher at Mary C. Howse Elementary School, in the West Chester Area School District, she’s taking graduate school classes at Immaculata University. Then she volunteers her time as secretary at Glenmoore and serves on a number of different committees there.
Her husband, Jeff, is the company fire chief. They have three children, Danae, 26, Jeffrey, 16, (himself a junior firefighter) and Joella, 14. Seese’s involvement with the department grew as the years went by.
“My husband was a member of the fire department,” she said. “After joining myself in January 2004, I became membership secretary from 2008-2017 and have been the company secretary since 2010. So I did both positions for seven years. I also assist with the company fundraisers.”
As the company secretary, Seese’s responsibilities include taking notes during monthly meetings. As membership secretary, her duties included performing background checks, collecting dues and making sure every member had their proper documentation on file, to name just a few. She also enjoys planning company events like the annual gala and Christmas party along with other fundraisers.
Seese hasn’t had too much of an issue balancing work, graduate school and family time with her responsibilities at the station. “The work at the station is not overly time consuming,” she said. “It’s all a priority to me. My teaching, kids, family are all a passion of mine. Grad school is just another incentive for myself to grow. Helping at the firehouse is my way of giving back to the community. It is important to me that I balance all of these responsibilities."
Both Jilian Brooks and Desiree Seese said there’s a common misconception that volunteers at the fire station have to be firefighters, when in fact there are plenty of other opportunities available for those looking to make a difference. “There’s always something to be done and we try to help everyone feel included,” said Brooks, “no matter what role they’re serving in.”
"I would say that if you have any interest in helping your local fire company but you are not sure how you can help them, just give them a call to express your interest,” said Seese. “Every fire company needs help and I am certain there is something there that you can do to support the company and help your community."
“Fire companies need volunteers to do those behind-the-scenes jobs,” said Neil Vaughn, head of the Chester County Fire Chiefs Association’s volunteer recruitment committee. “Firefighters are training and doing their due diligence to protect the community. They need volunteers who are able to take care of the books, track membership, take notes at meetings ─ so it’s not put on the laps of those doing the hard and dangerous work.”
By becoming an administrative volunteer at your local fire station, you’re helping save lives by attending to the business that keeps the fire company running, said Vaughn.
From opportunities like office personnel, logistics and fleet management, to grant and proposal writing, recruitment and retention, information technology and vehicle maintenance, there’s a role that fits your talents.
See for yourself. Fill out a volunteer inquiry form at HelpFightFire.com. Volunteer today. Chester County lives depend on it.