SOMERS, N.Y. -- Walter McDonald, 82, spent over 30 years as a professional firefighter in Mount Vernon before he moved to Somers. So when he arrived in 2000 it was only natural for him to offer his expertise to the Somers Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD). In so doing, he set the standard for future generations of McDonalds.
McDonald's son, Peter, describes his own volunteer work with the SVFD as "a very personal experience. You do it because you want to." In addition to being a qualified EMT and a registered nurse, Peter holds a full-time paid position with a fire battalion in lower Westchester. However, he confesses he's not fond of being an officer and a boss. He prefers the "grunt work" of fighting fires. "I'm always ready for the action," he says.
Peter's daughter, Kate, the third generation family volunteer says, "You're helping people in a time of need. It gives them peace of mind to know that someone is taking care of a loved one, especially if it's someone they know personally."
Kate joined the SVFD as a high school junior. She studied to become an EMT, found she really liked the work and decided to continue training to become a registered nurse. She has just been hired for her first professional nursing job at Northern Westchester Hospital.
"Looking out the back door of an ambulance gives you a unique view of society," adds Peter. "You see people who you know from Boy Scouts or baseball or football or somewhere else. You see people at their worst. You see something that the average person never gets to see. It makes you a bigger person."
One of the main differences between being paid to do a job and doing it as a volunteer, says Walter, is that a paid employee can leave when his shift is over. Nor does he have to show up on his day off. "When you're a volunteer, you go regardless. And you stay. We doze but we never close."
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