To celebrate National Volunteer Month, we spoke with AEP Ohio team members to hear how they give back to the community. Read more below:
AEP Ohio’s service territory includes many small towns and it’s not uncommon for some of our employees to volunteer with the local fire department or Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
It’s less common, though, for one of our garages to have three of these volunteers.
At the Van Wert Service Center in northwest Ohio, line mechanics Doug Wannemacher and Evan Laudick have been volunteer firefighters for 25 years and eight years, respectively, and Jason Swint has been an EMS worker for almost 13 years.
“These are small communities around here and it’s very rural. You kind of know everyone,” Evan said. “They’re always looking for volunteers, so when you talk to people and show that you’re interested, they’ll sign you up.”
Doug, Evan and Jason feel a duty to help their neighbors, particularly when these local departments can be understaffed. The three spend a lot of time fundraising to offset costs—through barbecues, bake sales, festivals, etc.—and even then, they sometimes buy equipment out of their own pockets.
The time commitment can be significant, too. To become a volunteer firefighter, one must complete 120 hours of training, followed by an additional 18 hours of annual training. Similarly, EMS work requires a minimum of 120 hours of coursework followed by 36 hours every other year of continuing education.
As a result, recruiting dedicated volunteers can be a challenge, especially as seasoned volunteers retire. The result is a mixed group of volunteers who all pitch in to help out: farmers, electricians, nurses, teachers, construction workers, retirees. Lineworkers are particularly well suited for the job because they’re accustomed to night and weekend work, as well as being the first to respond in emergency situations.
“They go hand in hand, whether it’s line work or emergency work. You have to know your training and do your job,” Jason said. “Yes, sometimes you miss things when you get called out and have to respond quickly, but that’s what we signed up for. Our families are all receptive, though—I have three kids and they already said they want to do something just like it when they grow up. That makes me proud.”