Anyone working in the fire service will agree it’s far more than a profession, it’s a passion, and for Kim McNeil that couldn’t be truer.
The Welfare Officer, from Devon and Somerset FRS, dedicated her time to volunteering for the Charity for most of her 30-year career, having seen how it can help beneficiaries first-hand.
Now, as she retires from the Service, we’re celebrating her incredible achievements over the years.
“At the time I joined the then-Devon Fire Service in 1991, you went to a job for two years, got more experiences and moved on, that’s just the way the world worked,” says Kim. “But the fire service just gets into your blood.
“I think my true vocation was my last role, as Welfare Officer, that’s the one that’s really suited me the most.
“I worked with so many people and saw such a difference made… there was one individual that couldn’t even drive up our HQ driveway to come and see me, they used to park at the end of the drive. I’d walk down and meet them, then walk back with them to my office – that’s how much this person was struggling with their mental health.
“They eventually came back to work, got their confidence back and ended up completing a job-related qualification that resulted in them being promoted. If I’ve helped in just 1% of that, then I’ve done my job.”
Kim began her career as a Divisional Admin Officer at Torquay fire station, before being promoted in her role. Since starting in the Service, she’s known the importance of supporting the Charity and has worked to spread the word about our services from the word go.
“I had first-hand experience of our station open days and discos that were huge income earners for the Charity from 1991,” recalls Kim. “I also saw how great the Charity was in helping our staff, but how little our staff used the local centre’s wonderful facilities… so I made it a point, especially when I became a HR Officer, to push the Charity as much as possible – both in giving and receiving!
“I’ve continued to promote the Charity at every given chance.”
“I’ve seen the Charity from all sides,” adds Kim. “I’ve volunteered for a number of years, I’ve done home visiting, but I’ve also been on the receiving end of rehabilitation support at Harcombe House.
“I went for two separate weeks there to help me with my cancer-related fatigue. I’ve seen it from all sides, from how the money’s raised on those wet, horrible days that our firefighters are doing Open Days and washing people’s cars, before seeing it through to the other side and actually benefitting from that.
“I think if a centre is further away from where someone lives, it can feel like a bit of a barrier for them, but now that so much can be done virtually, people can access that really easily which is great.
“Don’t hesitate, there’s no harm in picking up the phone and dialling the freephone number and just asking what the Charity could do for you, otherwise you’re never going to know.”
Alongside her main role, Kim signed up to become a Home Visitor for the Charity, where she helped with a number of financial grants and helped current and retired staff in form-filling to access the Charity. About the same time, Kim also volunteered to attend DSFRS meetings in support of the Charity, before becoming a committee member for the South-West Region.
She now intends to continue supporting the Charity for years to come – something she hopes to continue encouraging others to do too.
Our Volunteer Lead, Kate Harrison, says: “Kim is well-respected across Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, and is a dedicated advocate of the Charity, which she does with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude. Even before retiring she has already alluded that she plans to give us more of her time as a volunteer, possibly in our Harcombe House cafe when open to the public again, and is also considering being a Living Well Coordinator.”
From all of us at the Charity, a huge thank you Kim for your years of support!
If you’d be interested in volunteering for the Charity, please call or email Kate Harrison: 01256 368 866 / KHarrison@firefighterscharity.org.uk.