New Volunteer Program Matches Hopewell Valley Baby Boomers with Fire, EMS Units (Part 1 of 4)

Randi Knechel with her dad, Union Fire Co. Chief Bryan Malkiewicz

With children grown or careers successfully completed, Baby Boomers may find themselves with free time. A new Hopewell Township program hopes to match them with a fulfilling way to use it: Volunteering with a local fire company or first aid squad.

The benefits are mutual, shared Hopewell Valley Senior Services Coordinator Randi Knechel, who started the program. The volunteer organizations always need volunteers and can greatly benefit from the experience and skills these 50- and 60-somethings have to offer. And, in this stage of their lives, members of the generation that defied all the rules may find themselves craving a little structure.

“Newly retired people sometimes go into depression because they lack the schedule of going somewhere and doing something meaningful every day,” Knechel said. “Parents whose kids are now out of the house, who have no family to take care of, and whose day is done when the leave work at five, with no sporting events, concerts, or other activities may experience the same thing.”

Volunteering with an organization that literally saves the lives and property of your neighbors imparts a strong sense of purpose and is incredibly rewarding, Knechel said. “Learning new skills, or using a lifetime of skills in a new way, keeps a brain young — you’re never too old to learn something new!”

Hopewell Fire Department & Emergency Medical Unit, Pennington Fire Company, Pennington First Aid Squad, and Union Fire Company & Rescue Squad all need volunteers. There are no upper age limits. There are physical requirements that must be met for all emergency response roles, but the need for other kinds of volunteers is also great.

“These organizations also need non-emergency members to do things like organize and lead special events and fundraisers, maintain the stations or squad house, and serve in administrative roles,” Knechel said.  There doesn’t even need to be a specific time commitment, she added.  “Something as simple as volunteering to help out at weekend events or being available to let the air conditioner guy in or show someone the banquet hall can make a big difference.”

Knechel, Hopewell Valley Senior Services Coordinator, is uniquely suited to start a program matching new retirees and empty nesters with the Hopewell Valley fire and EMS organizations who need them.

She’s focused on the needs of those 50-and-older in her career, and focused on the needs of fire and EMS as a volunteer. Knechel is president of Union Fire Company & Rescue Squad’s Ladies Auxiliary, with which she has volunteered for 13 years. Her Baby Boomer dad, Bryan Malkiewicz, is Union Fire’s chief.

Baby Boomers are already serving Hopewell Valley as fire company, rescue squad, and first aid squad volunteers. MercerMe will introduce readers to them in a series of articles this month!

Boomers, or those of any age interested in volunteering with a Hopewell Valley fire or EMS unit, should visit and click on “volunteer,” or call Hopewell Valley Chief of Emergency Services Matthew Martin at 609-537-0287.

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