By Bruce Stambaugh
When the fire pagers sound, Gale Hershberger listens up.
She’s not a firefighter, but over the years, many volunteer first responders have been glad to see her show up at a working fire.
Hershberger, 50, has been president of the Winesburg Volunteer Fire Department auxiliary for longer than she cares to remember. It’s actually been 25 years. She and a dozen other women make sure tired, thirsty, hungry and sweaty firefighters have the necessary nutritional supplies to keep them going.
Hershberger’s husband, Tim, is not a firefighter either. So what got her involved in the auxiliary? It’s her penchant to serve, and her people-person personality that causes her to head for the fire station at 3 a.m. on a cold winter’s night or on the most humid afternoon of the summer.
“I see a need,” Hershberger said, “and I like to help fix it.”
Hershberger said she learned early on the importance of helping others. The Dover native would accompany her mother volunteering at their church.
“I like to think that I am observant of what goes on around me,” she said. “I like to be here to help people.”
Indeed, that is exactly what Hershberger has done throughout her life.
For 18 years, she has worked as a teacher’s aide in the East Holmes Local School District. In addition to the fire department Serve them she has. Aside from the fire department auxiliary and the 4-H involvement, Hershberger is also a board member for the Holmes County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Hershberger sees that as natural fit for her and her fire department involvement.
“We were called to the Glenwood apartment fire in Millersburg with the auxiliary,” she explained. “Our first concern was providing for the needs of the firefighters, handing out water, Gatorade and snacks.”
Once the fire died down and the mop-up began, Hershberger automatically switched into the Red Cross mode and began assisting the fire victims. That’s just how she is.
“I feel I don’t do that much,” Hershberger said modestly. “There are people who work at much bigger, better things than me.”
But her efforts don’t go unnoticed. The volunteer firefighters have come to know that if Winesburg is on scene, the auxiliary and the needs they fill will be there, too.
“If the guys go, we go,” Hershberger said simply.
Hershberger received the 2009 4-H Alumni of the Year award. And recently she received a cute card of appreciation from a 4-H’er that meant a lot to her.
Hershberger also co-coordinates the Red Cross blood drive at Winesburg six times a year. The campaign is held in the Zion Reformed Church annex across the street from the fire station.
Like most volunteer fire departments, Winesburg (Paint Township) has its share of fundraisers. Of course, Hershberger can be found in the middle of all the efforts, whether it’s a chicken barbeque, auction, soup and salad supper, or pancake and sausage breakfast.
Hershberger said that over the years the auxiliary has been able to purchase the Jaws of Life, a heart monitor and new tables with money raised from fundraisers. Just ticking off that list brought a smile of satisfaction to Hershberger’s face.
Given what she has done with working for others, that smile may have been a peek inside her heart.
This story appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.