Q&A: Jack Amrhein on Life as a Perry Hall Volunteer
Baltimore County firefighter volunteers his time to help the community
Jack Amrhein takes volunteering to a whole new level.
Amrhein has dedicated his time to the community since moving to Perry Hall as a child and getting involved in St. Joseph Church. Today, in addition to working full-time as a lieutenant in the Baltimore County Fire Department EMS Division, he is an active member of the Perry Hall Improvement Association and White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company. He speaks often of the pride he has for his community and his girlfriend Kathy's two children, one of which is currently serving with the Marine 1/6 Alpha Company as a SAW gunner in Afghanistan.
Amrhein answered questions about his experiences as a volunteer. The following interview has been edited for length and content.
Patch: How long have you been a volunteer?
Amrhein: I guess if you count my original volunteering since moving to Perry Hall, I'd say about 32 years. I started as a volunteer busboy at the summer chicken dinner and carnival at St. Joseph Church back in the summer of 1979. I've done just about every job there since, from busboy to my current position as a chicken fryer.
Patch: Why did you decide to get involved in volunteering?
Amrhein: I think some of my motivation to volunteer for various groups stems from the example and education provided to me by a few select elders when I was young.
My scoutmaster, Art Williamson, never even had a son, yet he gave 27 years to the Boy Scouts and my troop at St Joseph's. Many of us still go to him for fatherly advice and try to set the example for today's kids as he set the example for us. His advice to us, one on one, as we turned 18 and became adult leaders, was to always strive to give back to the group and pass on something that we learned. Art Luken and Bill Freeburger were also inspirational leaders who exemplified those ideals.
As for my fire service, John Berwick, until the day he died, reminded me to never forget where I came from and to work on improving the community through service.
Patch: What organizations do you volunteer with?
Amrhein: I currently serve with several organizations. I've been a member of the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company for over 22 years. I am also a member of the Middle River Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Company, where I function as a divemaster and rescue diver with the water rescue team.
I also serve as an assistant scoutmaster with the Boy Scout Troop 746, chartered to St. Joseph's. I volunteer at St Joseph's and have done so in various capacities over the last 30 or so years, doing everything from shoveling snow to parking cars in the lots and stuffing envelopes. These days, I mostly just work at the major events, primarily the chicken dinner two times a year.
I serve as a board member with the Perry Hall Improvement Association and have really enjoyed becoming involved with a different style of community service.
The last major group I volunteer with is the American Power Boat Association. I have been working with them since 1992 as a rescue diver, swimmer, medic and boat operator.
Patch: How does volunteering make you feel?
Amrhein: The first thought is exhausted. I guess volunteering hits just about every emotion one can think of. It changes with what I am doing at the time. It is, at times, rewarding, depressing, fun, enlightening, sad, educational and satisfying.
There are days when I go from one thing to the next and I wonder why I do so much or how I can fit it all in. Then there are times when I realize I have made a difference in a person's life, whether it be a child at Boy Scouts or an elderly citizen who needed some medical attention and a hand to hold. When you work with people, you never know what's going to happen and just when you think you've seen it all, someone surprises you.
Patch: How can other community members get involved?
Amrhein: The first thing people have to do is ask themselves if they have the time and want to make the effort to make a difference. Volunteering is not for everyone and sometimes it takes trying different things and different groups to find where you fit in.
Ask yourself why you want to volunteer. Is it to learn a new skill, serve the community or just to enjoy time with friends doing something that helps people or the community? The options in Perry Hall are unlimited. There are nature groups, children's groups, service groups and the list goes on and on. Once you have an idea, I would suggest going to a meeting or the place they meet or their office and introducing yourself. Ask if you can spend some time observing and talking to other members to see if it's what you really want to do.
Are you a local volunteer? How do you get involved in the community? Tell us in the comments.