Volunteer work has been booming across the country.
The Volunteer Fire Department in Memphis has nearly doubled its staff since it began its service two years ago.
And volunteers at the San Antonio Rescue Mission are helping with disaster relief in Texas and elsewhere.
It’s also growing in popularity across the U.S. But Memphis’ Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, a nonprofit that provides fire service to the South, is struggling to keep up.
It needs help recruiting and retaining new volunteers and filling vacancies.
Volunteer firefighter Chris McRae says it’s a challenge.
“We’ve got about 15 to 20 full-time people, but we’re going through a massive recruiting effort,” McRai says.
The department has about 1,500 volunteers, he says.
They need to hire more firefighters and put more emphasis on retention and promotion.
Volunteer work is a great way to connect people with service, McRaurys says, because you don’t have to go out and spend a lot of time on the phone or social media looking for people.
Volunteers come from all walks of life.
Some are single mothers with young children.
Others have kids and are working part-time jobs to help pay for college or retirement.
“Volunteering is a lot more accessible now than it was when I was a kid, but it’s still hard to find people who are willing to work part- or full- time,” McRaven says.
He’s hoping the Volunteer Fire Academy will help.
The academy opened last summer in Memphis, but has been struggling to recruit volunteers.
It only has about 40 students enrolled.
The academy also has a few more vacancies.
“There are a lot people who have left the fire service for other jobs, or they’ve quit the fire department,” McRay says.
There are also many volunteer positions that are available in Memphis.
Many of the fire departments in Memphis are also in need of new volunteers.
The fire marshal, for example, has been reduced to just four firefighters, while the city’s fire commissioner is under fire.
“There’s a lot to do, and we’ve got a lot going on,” McQueen says.