Banks Fire volunteers get state honors
Banks resident Johannah Wren remembers the countless times her father got up and left the dinner table when she was a child.
"He was leaving to help somebody else," Wren said.
As a volunteer firefighter, Wren's father responded to calls at all hours of the day and night — and that selflessness has inspired her to do the same.
For the Banks Fire District 13 volunteer, emergency response is a family affair. Wren made her family proud last month when she accepted the Emergency Medical Responder of the Year award at the annual Oregon EMS Awards Program in Bend.
Zachary Havelind, 24, a fellow Banks Fire volunteer, accepted the Advanced Emergency Medical Technician award. "I was surprised," he said. "But I felt pretty honored."
"We are excited to serve our community and guests with some of the best Oregon has to offer," said Scott Adams, Banks Fire public information officer. "It is a high honor to receive these awards, and an even higher honor to have two of these annual awards given to Banks Fire personnel in the same year."
The awards banquet honors emergency responders whose actions "stand out from the day-to-day excellence," according to the nomination rules.
Banks Fire Chief Rodney Linz nominated both Wren and Havelind. "These two were continually recognized by staff as going above and beyond with their committment to their duties and compassion they show on calls," Linz said. "They also both have positive attitudes and there's a number of people who like to work with them."
In addition, Linz said Wren and Havelind both take the time to help new EMTs understand difficult concepts, he said.
Banks Fire only has a handful of paid employees but more than 70 volunteers. Many credit the department's successful volunteer recruitment partially to the positive atmosphere and solid camaraderie. Often, Wren will go down to the station just to hang out and do homework — or eat dinner with other volunteers.
"Banks is the best volunteer department you could join by far," said Havelind, who participated in search-and-rescue programs as a teenager and was inspired to start studying to be a paramedic after volunteering with Banks Fire. "After going on calls and seeing how much good the firefighters and EMTs could do, it inspired me to get better and be the absolute most I could be" in this line of work.
Banks volunteers "have the opportunity to do everything," Havelind said, making him well-rounded and confident in emergency response.
And even the new volunteers are treated like valuable parts of the team. "Those with no experience and a lot of experience all work together to get the job done," Wren said. "Everyone is always up to help."
Wren is a Banks High School graduate who's studying dental hygiene at Portland Community College. "I like the idea of helping others," said the 20-year-old. "I don't think I would be as fulfilled without my volunteering."
After watching her father, brothers, uncle and cousin volunteer their time with local fire departments, Wren decided she wanted to give it a try. "I've always wanted to work in dental hygiene and fire," she said. "I have the option to do both this way and don't have to choose."
Both Wren and Havelind agree the work has made them better people. "It's allowed me to be more grateful," said Wren. "It's given me the drive to help others."
Haveling started volunteering soon after graduating from Glencoe High School and said the experiences have made him more compassionate and patient. "When you graduate from high school you're not grown up and have no direction," he said. "This has given me direction."
By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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