Michelle Calvario – Volunteer Firefighter
Nurse Practitioner. Martial Artist. Volunteer Firefighter.
When Michelle and her husband, Joe, moved to Glen Ellyn in 2021, they received a postcard in the mail about becoming a volunteer firefighter. They separately reviewed it, had their interest piqued, and by the time they got a chance to talk to each other about it, it was pretty much already decided. “We looked at each other and said, ‘We are going to do this, right?’ And we did!” says Michelle. “We are super into physical challenges—working out, martial arts, exercise—so it’s really hard for us to see something physical and not want to try it.”
Michelle had thought being a firefighter sounded interesting since college. She comes from a family of caregivers—her mom, five aunts and uncles, and a handful of cousins are nurses. So it comes as no surprise that she has worked in medicine since she was 18 years old, first as an EMT, then as an Emergency Room nurse, and as a nurse practitioner for the last eight years.
She loves challenges and learning new things, so she was thrilled to discover she could get the training to become an actual firefighter. “We loved learning that we would train and end up with the same certifications, skills, and expectations as someone doing this as a career,” says Michelle. “The harder the challenge—if someone will be surprised or shocked that my husband and I are doing something—the more we want to do it.”
And she has learned so much. “If you are willing, there is always something to learn,” says Michelle. “There are so many opportunities to train. I’m curious and am a lifelong learner. That’s the best part for me.”
She also loved the unique experience of going through training with her husband. “We are each other’s biggest cheerleader and support. We are also each other’s biggest critic and competition,” says Michelle. “We are pulling each other along, getting each other through it. He’s my best friend.”
They’ve also loved the people they have met throughout the process. “We’ve made a lot of other best friends we have been able to share,” says Michelle. “Being new in town, it created a support system right away.” In addition, through serving her neighbors, she’s gotten to know her actual neighbors better. In fact, a few of the people on her block found out she was a firefighter when she responded to calls at their houses.
“It’s important for me to be able to respond in an emergency and be able to help. I need a job that is challenging and time consuming. That is all I know and all I ever want to do.”
She encourages other people—especially women—to take the step and try it. “Women don’t realize how much they can offer as a firefighter,” says Michelle. “I think the expectation is that you have to be big and strong, but I think the most important and valuable trait is to be caring and compassionate. We need people of all sizes, strengths, and skills. Everyone has something to offer that we want.”
Michelle’s advice if you are considering becoming a volunteer? Visit the station and learn more. “Come to drill or an open house, and let us show you what it’s like. So many great people here would love to talk to you to help you understand what we do.”
“Women don’t realize how much they can offer as a firefighter. I think the expectation is that you have to be big and strong, but I think the most important and valuable trait is to be caring and compassionate.”
Michelle’s top three reasons to volunteer:
Community involvement. “This is the first time I’ve had a support system in my own community and feel I’m giving back. I know more people, have more resources, and am more involved than anywhere else I’ve ever lived,” says Michelle.
How much you learn. “You’ll be surprised at how little you know about firefighters, and how big of a world it opens up. There is so much to learn,” says Michelle.
The friendships and the support. “You’ll meet the best people you could possibly meet,” says Michelle. “We all volunteer for strangers, so of course we will support each other.”