Clare Doran – Volunteer Firefighter
Mom. Homemaker. Volunteer Firefighter.
Clare Doran is a stay-at-home mom who had been in Glen Ellyn for a few years, volunteering at various places—the school, the library, the resale shop—when the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company caught her attention. “I had seen it and immediately dismissed it,” says Clare. “I was in my mid-40s, female, and just thought they wouldn’t want me.” However, the idea of working with the group intrigued her.
She attended a meet and greet because it sounded so different from the other volunteering she had done. “I thought, even if I was just cleaning around at the station and they got a call—I thought that would be quite exciting,” says Clare. When there, she chatted with different people, and after a few conversations she realized they didn’t want her there to clean or file. “They were actually recruiting me to be a firefighter,” says Clare.
Initially she resisted. “I didn’t think it was a good idea,” says Clare. “I didn’t see myself as firefighter material—never in my wildest dreams. But the GE firefighters said, ‘We’ll teach you!’”
“My friends who have followed my journey and heard my stories say, ‘I could never do that.’ My response? That’s what I thought originally. You never know unless you try. It’s really fun and rewarding. You have nothing to lose—just give it a go” ~ Clare Doran
Through training, she discovered a lot about herself. “As a firefighter, I’ve done so many things I didn’t think it would be possible for me to do, all with so much support and encouragement from the rest of the company to keep going, to carry on,” says Clare. “It’s been so fun.”
She went through training and hasn’t looked back since. A lot of the work of being a volunteer firefighter has surprised her—namely, it’s not just about fires. “You don’t all need super strength to be a volunteer firefighter,” says Clare. “We check people’s houses for gas leaks. We sometimes drive the ambulance to the hospital. We help lift someone who’s fallen. We make car accident scenes safe.” The variety of calls helped Clare to realize the variety of people and skills needed for the team—and that this is why she fits in and would love to see more people like herself volunteer.
While it is more disruptive to daily family life than other volunteer jobs she’s taken on, Clare argues that it is a huge benefit to her family. She started with the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company when her kids were in middle school and high school. Sometimes, she’d be making dinner and a call would come through. Her kids learned responsibility by taking over the dinner prep while she went on the call. Or they’d be interrupted while driving somewhere, and her kids would drop her off at the station. “My kids get very excited about it with me,” says Clare.
Clare has realized that, because of the excellent training and supportive team, anyone can become a volunteer firefighter. “All you need is stamina, will power, and to not give up on things,” says Clare. “We don’t always have ideal conditions, we have to work with whatever we get, but we all work together and that helps.”
And the rewarding work makes it all worth it. Clare answers most calls that come through because of her flexible schedule. After the initial training period, anyone can answer any call. “But, of course, we all get hooked and answer as many as possible. We want to go and see how we can help people,” says Clare.
“Every call is different—it’s what makes this volunteer opportunity unique. You don’t get to do this in normal, everyday life. Especially not as a housewife.” ~Clare Doran
Clare’s top reasons other stay-at-home moms should consider volunteering.
- It’s exciting. “Every call is different, every patient is different, each house you go to. You have to answer the call. You never know what you’re going to find when you get there.”
- It’s possible. “You don’t all need super strength. Anyone can do it, because we have the right training. I knew nothing about any of the tools we use, and they taught me everything I needed. It’s more about a mindset that you want to do it, and you are willing to have a go.”
- It’s rewarding. “Personally, I’ve done things I never thought were possible for me to do. Also, you go help people when they are having a bad day. And that’s what volunteers love to do: help people and make a difference.”
Top aspects of the volunteer firefighter role, according to Clare:
- Flexible timing. After training, you decide which calls you can answer.
- Phenomenal training. Top notch equipment and training makes the job safe.
- Incredible team. On all calls, we’re watching each other’s backs. It’s like having a whole new lot of brothers and sisters.