Harmonville Fire Company makes most of FEMA funds

Innovative recruitment yields 18 new volunteers in first year of grant-funded campaign

It’s been a busy year for Harmonville Fire Company, and not just when it came to responding to fires and highway rescues. Despite the pandemic, the company was able to welcome in 18 new members, all of who came during the anniversary of its launch of a grant-funded volunteer recruitment campaign.

The activities kicked off with the creation of a recruitment website, JoinHarmonvilleFire.org, and a branding campaign which highlighted the company’s core principles: “Honor. Family. Community.” From there, recruitment activities got bigger (literally) and more distinct. Over the summer, the company purchased an 11 x 6-foot trailer, and added its recruitment messages on all sides of to take its campaign “on the road” and to high-attendance events such as Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s Homecoming game.  Earlier in the year, the fire company committed to a two-year sponsorship with Plymouth Little League, which enabled the fire company to create signage behind the batting cage and to come to games to recruit adult spectators.

To ensure that not a single public recruitment opportunity was lost, Harmonville firefighters received “Talk the Talk” training from Communication Solutions Group, the marketing and PR firm that has assisted them with implementing all phases recruitment and retention campaign. The training, through role-playing and recruitment best practices, provided situational opportunities for convincing community members to learn about becoming a volunteer firefighter.

Harmonville supplemented these face-to-face interactions with targeted residential mailings, video productions, PR and social media activities.

While Harmonville Fire Company cannot point to one specific activity as the reason for its 18 new members, Chief John Hoffman does believe that the collective nature of the campaign has given Harmonville Fire Company a lot of attention. “People are seeing our name more than they have before, they are telling their friends to check us out, and volunteer inquiries are continuing to come in,” says Hoffman.

The four-year recruitment and retention campaign comes at no cost taxpayers since it is funded entirely through the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

New Harmonville Volunteers reflect on past year

Dan Azeff joined Harmonville Fire Company in April 2020 as a probationary member. (Submitted Photo)

Looking for a way to be involved in the community, Dan Azeff joined Harmonville Fire Company in April 2020 as a probationary member. “I don’t have family members within the department, but I have two very close friends that I consider family. They really inspired me to become a volunteer firefighter,” said Azeff.

Eager to start his journey as a volunteer firefighter, Azeff is currently attending the fire academy to advance his knowledge in the fire world and develop tactical skills. While many emergency calls are exciting, he recalls his first time gearing up for a call to be his most memorable moment since joining. “The thrill of hearing the tone drop on my first fire call is a moment I’ll never forget,” he said.

Excitement and a sense of belonging is what encouraged fellow member, Mario Sabino, to join Harmonville in 2020.

“The friendships I’ve made while joining the fire service have become some of the most important people in my life. On the fire service side, every fire call brings a little bit of excitement. You never know what you’re going to expect when your phone goes off,” Sabino said.

One enticing aspect of Harmonville Fire Company for Sabino is that volunteers are required to become First Aid and CPR-certified, two skills he feels are applicable for everyday life. “It’s good to know that you may be able to help someone or even possibly save their life while going about your normal day to day routine,” he said.

Walking into the firehouse with no prior experience did not stop Alex Pileggi from becoming a firefighter at Harmonville Fire Company.The company’s eagerness to train him on different techniques using tools and equipment has been apparent from the start of his volunteer journey.

“The positivity and inclusiveness immediately made me feel accepted and welcome,” Pileggi said. “If you ever have thought about becoming a volunteer firefighter, don’t hesitate. It has been a great opportunity and a life-changing experience.”

Alex Pileggi signed up to volunteer without any prior experience. (Submitted Photo)

“If you’re looking to join an amazing group of firefighters that treat each other like family, Harmonville is the place to be. There is something for everybody here at Harmonville,” Sabino said.

Harmonville Fire Company is seeking volunteers and encourages community members to learn about the many ways to get involved at joinharmonvillefire.org.