As an eighth-grader, Hewlett resident Daniella Barskaya asked herself how she could help people while making an impact in her community. To accomplish such task, she looked towards volunteering at the Hewlett Fire Department.
“I’ve always wanted to help people and didn’t know how,” she said. “I came here and felt like I was doing something good.”
Made up of only volunteers since 1891, the Hewlett Fire Department covers parts of Hewlett, North Woodmere and provides mutual aid to surrounding communities.
“We help the community when there is a time of need,” said Gary Kotlyar, a department fire-medic lieutenant. “Whether it’s fire emergencies, ambulance request, anything you could imagine, we do that.”
Volunteering can begin as early as 12 years old as a member of the Junior Hewlett Fire Department, a program established in 1989 with the goal of training and inspiring local boys and girls into a career in the volunteer fire and EMS service.
“We are trying to get our name across,” Kotlyar said. “Some people don’t know that we’re volunteers. They think that everybody’s paid for, so we’re trying to convey that message a little more that we are 100 percent a volunteer department.”
Kotlyar said members, including him, have full-time jobs outside of volunteering.
Barskaya, 25, now a secretary at the department, went through the junior program and felt she had matured much faster because of it.
“It helped me build my character,” she said. “It helped me feel a sense of purpose and made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than me. I lived in Hewlett all my life and it’s amazing to give back to the community.”
To attract volunteers, the fire department put together posters across the community and was in attendance at this year’s Arts Below Sunrise event.
In honor of Emergency Medical Service week from May 21 to 27, the fire department hosted an open house at its headquarters on May 21.
“All the training is provided,” Kotlyar said. “Whether they want to become a volunteer firefighter or an EMT (emergency medical technician), they get the same training that a real professional who does get paid for the service goes through.”
Training for EMS consists of trauma scenarios, medical scenarios and how to be safe with yourself and people.
Capt. Karen Fiorello emphasized there is a call for volunteers not only in Hewlett but every community.
“There’s a need for it,” she said. “There’s a need for firefighters to have people to save them if something goes wrong and the community needs us. You get to know people and people get to know you. It is so rewarding you can’t even imagine how happy we are when we take somebody and find out they are home and well.”
Fiorello said that volunteering helps build self-esteem and a feeling of self-worth, but also crucial life skills.
“You learn how to take care of someone and gives you that life skill that you’re able help somebody,” Kotlyar said. “I think that alone is inevitable because no one can take that away from you. Helping your community and your neighbors is a wonderful thing, but the life-saving skills you learn can also help your family at their most critical time.”