By Laura McFarland
First, Merry Christmas from the staff of the Powhatan Today. We hope this year and this season have brought peace and prosperity to your lives and that 2020 will be a blessed year.
This is the first time since I started working for the newspaper in 2014 that a publication date and Christmas have coincided. Funnily enough, when I was first trying to decide what to write about for a Christmas column, I only ever seriously considered one topic.
I could have waxed poetic about the real reason for the season, the stress and pressures the holidays bring, disappointment about not being with my family in Texas today, thankfulness that I had good friends to be with instead, or any number of other topics. But I only thought of those ideas later.
For some reason, when I thought about what I wanted to say on Christmas, only one thing came to mind – the first responders working to keep us safe today. I thought about the firefighters responding when meal preparations don’t go as planned, the state troopers responding to accidents as people travel to see loved ones, the deputies showing up when all of that family togetherness turns sour, the EMTs arriving to help when sickness or injury strike unexpectedly, and the 911 dispatchers answering the calls for help.
So in an effort to shine a spotlight on what they do, I reached out to some of our local first responders to ask some questions and hear from them what it means to be working today.
The Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office has two shifts working around the clock, dayshift and evening shift, Lt. Lee Sullivan said. Each shift works 12 hours and has five deputies assigned to provide coverage for the entire county every day, including holidays. Sullivan offered county residents the sheriff’s office’s best wishes this holiday season.
“We all are busy each day working, going place to place, but stop just for a second to thank your God for the blessings, peace and joy that He provides us each day. Spend time with your family, be safe in your travels. God bless each one of you, God bless our first responders and military,” he said.
Powhatan County Fire and Rescue will have a minimum of five to six staff members working a 24-hour shift on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day and anywhere from one to four more working 12 hours during the day, according to Phil Warner, fire and rescue chief.
Firefighter Art Tate, Station 2 B shift, pointed out that “emergencies don’t stop because it’s Christmas. We are sworn to protect the citizens of Powhatan 365 days a year. Plus the added bonus is there is no better family to spend the holiday with than my fire, EMS, and deputy family.”
Lt. Jeffrey Wallace, Station 1 A shift, added that working the holidays is something nobody loves to do but they know someone has to do.
“In the last 15 years, I’ve been at work for more holidays then I’ve been off. My family has come to understand that Christmas may fall on the 26th instead of the 25th in our house. The part that I love about the fire service is during the holidays the love and understanding that firefighters have for each other comes out. If one of our brothers or sisters on the job has a small child at home, someone else will step in and cover a few hours of their shift so they can be home with the family and be there for those special moments. Between that and the outpouring of support we get from the community on days like Christmas makes it all worth it.”
Powhatan Public Safety will have four to five full-time employees working the day and night shifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day as well as some who are part-time or will be in training, according to Cory Chaffins, shift supervisor.
“Public safety is a 24-hour, 365-day job. Just because it is a holiday does not mean that emergencies do not happen. It is something that I have done for many years and enjoy the job each and every day – because no two days are alike. Knowing that we can provide help for someone in their time of need is what we are here for. Our families know what this job means and understand that we are out here helping other people,” Chaffins said.
Rebekah Mann, communications officer, added, “I am here because I choose to help people, regardless of what day. Most times, the holidays are very stressing and can be depressing for some people. We hope that they are not but it happens, and it is very important to have people available to help someone in their time of need.”
I feel like anything I could say in this column to follow those words would seem trivial. So, I will simply say, to our first responders, thank you, and I wish all of our residents a happy and safe holiday season, whether you are at home or traveling elsewhere.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.