The Payne brothers Andrew, 34; Shawn Jr., 32; and Ed, 20, all began volunteering at Sharon Hill Fire Company as teenagers and high school students. They found a second family and a purpose to help the community, and in return, were able to improve their lives personally and professionally.
Getting Started as Volunteers
Andrew began volunteer firefighting at Collingdale Fire Company #1 and Shawn at Collingdale Fire Company #2, before joining Sharon Hill Fire Company a couple of years later. They ran with both Collingdale and Sharon Hill for a few years, and Andrew was also a Lieutenant and Captain at Collingdale Fire Company #1.
Their dad was a volunteer firefighter and former Chief, so the Payne brothers – and their six other siblings – grew up around volunteering.
“Firefighting was always something I wanted to do growing up,” said Shawn. “It offered a good structure and great people to surround myself with, so I would stay out of trouble.”
Ed joined Sharon Hill Fire Company as a junior firefighter to learn something new when he wasn’t in school or playing sports. During his senior year of high school, academics, sports and college preparation filled a lot of his time and he became a social member.
“I made the switch to a social member when I realized I couldn’t put in the time that everybody else at the station could,” said Ed.
As a social member, Ed was on the fire company’s softball team and he helps out with events like the Halloween candy check or Christmas tree sales.
Joining a Second Family
The Payne brothers describe Sharon Hill Fire Company like a second family to them.
“Someone is always there to talk to or hang out with at the station,” said Andrew. “It’s not just about volunteering; it’s about the camaraderie.”
Currently, the brothers don’t get to volunteer as much together as they used to.
“When we were younger, it gave us the opportunity to hang out together and do something we both enjoy doing,” said Andrew.
After moving to Haverford, Andrew mainly volunteers and serves as Lieutenant at Manoa Fire Company unless he is visiting family in Sharon Hill.
Shawn is able to spend the most time volunteering at Sharon Hill Fire Company and is also on the Board of Trustees.
“It’s a good feeling to know that my family members are doing the same service that I am and learning the same things,” said Shawn.
His younger brother Ed is currently studying sport management at Neumann University.
“Volunteering with my brothers was very helpful,” said Ed. “Knowing I could ask either one of them to help me learn something or come to the station with me on days that we weren’t doing anything, and to learn more about the trucks or help find gear, was very beneficial.”
Creating Opportunities and Career Paths
During his 18 years of volunteering, Shawn learned a variety of skills and says it is a great stepping-stone to careers in professional firefighting, law enforcement, government, military and many others.
Shawn works as a highway department foreman in the Borough of Folcroft and formerly worked in Sharon Hill government. As a member of Sharon Hill Fire Company, Shawn’s connections in the community to serve as references was a great benefit.
Andrew also credits Sharon Hill Fire Company to helping his career. “Being in the fire service gave me the opportunity to work for Delaware County’s 911 Center and opened the door for me to do that.”
Andrew is currently a police dispatcher and is training to become a fire dispatcher.
“Shawn and Andrew are very hardworking, driven people in general, but when you take those qualities and apply them to firefighting, you truly find out how dedicated they are to being firefighters,” said Ed. “I can tell countless stories of them working fires all day or all night, getting little to no sleep and showing up to work the next day with no complaints because they loved doing it.”
Seeking More Volunteers
Sharon Hill Fire Company is continually looking for new volunteers.
“Sharon Hill needs that younger group of volunteers always coming in through the door to maintain the future of the fire company,” said Andrew.
The fire company has a cadet program for teenagers 14 and 15, a junior firefighting program for teenagers 16 and 17, and active firefighting for adults 18 and older. However, it’s not just about putting on gear and answering calls says Shawn. They also need help running the organizational and administrative side of things.
Ultimately, the effort volunteers put in will determine what they get out of the experience.
“What you can give is what you’ll get out of it,” said Andrew. “It’s an opportunity to better yourself and your career path.”
Volunteers do not need prior experience to join. Training and gear are provided, and the volunteers are supportive to beginners.
“Everybody wants to help each other and see each other succeed,” said Ed.
To learn more about volunteering at Sharon Hill Fire Company or fill out an inquiry form, visit FightSharonHillFires.org.