|LVC's Most Extreme Volunteers
Students at Lebanon Valley College find an amazing assortment of extracurricular activities to become involved in, and they are not always campus related. There are a handful of students in the LVC community that choose to go out and risk their lives for the safety of others as volunteer firefighters and EMTs. Criminal justice majors Adam Gardner ’13, Jordan Herr ’15, and Kory Lopata ’15 are three such volunteers, and each is profiled below.
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Gardner has been in emergency services for seven years, beginning as a volunteer with the Brickerville Volunteer Fire Company at 14 years old. He was initially inspired by friends of his older sister who were serving with the company.
At the same time, he also joined the Warwick Community Ambulance. This affiliation eventually led to him earning EMT certification at 16 – a certification he still uses today both as a volunteer and in his employment with the Dutch Wonderland safety department. The training was built on 140 classroom hours and 50 hours of combined learning that included hazardous materials, emergency vehicle operations, and CPR certification.
When he enrolled at LVC, Gardner became a criminal justice major with a sociology minor.
“I want to be a police officer,” Gardner said. “That’s my ultimate goal. You can use any type of emergency training as an officer, especially medical skills. You never know when you might need that. Any emergency service functions in pretty much the same way. You have your chain of command and radio communications. Working in an emergency field – even as a volunteer – you get to know local law enforcement, so it also helps in a networking aspect.”
Earlier in his career as an EMT, Gardner faced adversity being a young responder. Every move he made was questioned, and every technique he performed was watched. As he matured, he said, he earned the full trust of those around him.
Gardner acknowledges the high stress levels that comes with work in emergency services but maintains that the rewards outweigh the challenges. His biggest call came when a man in his 40s went into cardiac arrest and had to be brought back to life.
“I handle the stress of it. If you work with good EMTs and good people, you can always talk and joke about a situation and make it seem better,” Gardner said. “The main thing is handling stress, and you have to talk about it – especially with other people who can really understand it.”
Like Gardner, Herr is a criminal justice major, but the similarities extend further. Herr grew up three houses down from Lawn Fire & EMS and spent time idolizing the drivers that pulled out with their sirens blaring. He began volunteering when he was 15 – first on the EMS side and then as a firefighter two years later.
Herr’s aspirations are to bring his fire experience and his criminal justice degree together and work as a paid firefighter after college. Other options that his LVC degree would present are in fire investigation and working as a municipal police officer. He is exploring all three options.
“When you save a life or save someone’s property, it is one of the best feelings in the world,” Herr said. “When you get a ‘thank you’ from the owners of a house or a family member at a car accident, it definitely makes you want to keep fighting and getting out there to keep helping others.”
Herr’s biggest challenge is time management – not the pressure of life-or-death situations. He has to balance school, work, and volunteering, and often hits an impasse moment where he has to go to class smelling like smoke. “There just isn’t a lot you can do,” he said. “We are drilling once or twice a week on top of 911 calls, so it takes a lot of devotion. Somehow, it all comes together in the end.”
Breaking the stress but adding to his already busy routine, Herr is a member of the LVC golf team, a peer mentor, and an officer in the Criminal Justice Club. In spite of all of the demands on his time, Herr remains one of the department’s biggest recruiters.
“We definitely need the help and most people think, ‘Well I don’t have any training,’ or ‘I don’t want to run into a burning building,’” Herr said. “The truth is we need people to help with fundraisers, and we need people who are social members. We pay for the training if you want to take classes, so don’t let the cost or lack of training keep you from joining because the volunteers are disappearing in the fire departments and with EMS. If you’re interested, stop by a station and just ask.”
Lopata, too, is a criminal justice major, but his interest in emergency services began under different circumstances. Four years ago, Lopata and his friends drove up on a car accident. They were the first to the scene, and after watching professionals arrive and care for those involved, Lopata knew he wanted to help people. He became EMT-certified one year later.
When he is home, he volunteers for Nesquehoning Hose Company #1 and Nesquehoning Ambulance Corp. There are no set hours for firefighting, but he says that ambulance shifts run for 12 hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. “One minute you can be with your family and friends and then the tones go off,” Lopata said. “Without any thought, you automatically go, knowing that someone is in need of help.”
Lopata’s goal is to work in law enforcement, and he recognizes the importance of his volunteer work on his résumé. He is quick to warn others that being a first responder is not for everyone. “Make sure it is something that you love to do,” he said.
When he’s not on call or in class, Lopata is also a member of the LVC golf team and enjoys kayaking, riding four-wheelers, hunting, and fishing.