With 22 years of experience in the fire service, Stuart took on this important voluntary role with the Charity in 2016. Since then the 40-year-old has built on the great success of his predecessor in post and made a significant impact himself, drawing upon his personal experiences with the Charity, as well as an innate and natural ability to communicate with people from all walks of life , to reach more supporters and boost the region’s fundraising efforts.
Stuart began his career at Warrington Fire Station, where he served for 18 years over two watches. He’d always wanted to be a firefighter. Starting on an apprenticeship he became a Rope Rescue Supervisor, Swift Water Rescue Technician, Animal Rescue Responder and an ATACC Instructor. Over this period he also did a huge amount for The Fire Fighters Charity, organising open days and car washes, as well as becoming a Station Rep, a role that helps to raise awareness of the Charity and coordinate fundraising for it on station.
Four years ago, Stuart moved to Knutsford Fire Station, where he recently took over as Service Coordinator, a role previously held by Pete Shields, who he respectfully refers to as a “legend” within Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. Service Coordinators act as the key point of contact for the Charity in each Fire and Rescue Service. They provide a vital link between the Charity and the Fire and Rescue Service, cascading information down and acting as a point of contact for those looking to access the Charity’s services, as well as coordinating fundraising activity. So taking on the role from Pete was a decision Stuart didn’t deliberate over for long.
“For the last 8-10 years, I organised open days and car washes at Warrington and Knutsford,” he recalls. “I became a contact for Pete as I was the Station Rep, and then Pete retired and I stepped up. It seemed like a natural progression.
“Pete did so much for everybody, he still does, but my station-focused job and my commitments to my own family, mean that I just don’t have as much time as he did. Nevertheless, though, I’m hugely excited about the role. I love it. I’m going to stations to introduce myself and let people know about how things will work, and I’m putting a bit of onus back on the stations to do things.”
“My main job at the moment is to make people aware of me and the services out there.”
Stuart has already made it to 12 stations and has a vision to recruit a rep on each station (100% success so far). He’s also keen to improve Cheshire’s intranet, ensuring there is a dedicated section of the homepage for the Charity.
“I thrive off challenge,” he says. “I do tend to think of myself as quite a caring person. If people need to use the services, I want them to tell me about it – my main job at the moment is to make people aware of me and the services out there. But fundraising is vital – it’s a must, so I do all the open days and car washes that I can. I also work with Jim Brown, the local Charity Fundraiser, to raise awareness of the importance of regular giving, of becoming a regular donor or of uplifting your donations. I’m keen to boost Cheshire’s record in this area. I was told that if every firefighter in the country paid £10 a month into the Charity, it would be self-sufficient and able to do so much more for beneficiaries. So that has to be the target.”
His approach may be different to that of his predecessor, but Stuart has been pleased with the reception he has been given by colleagues across Cheshire: “All the feedback I have had from the community has been so positive,” he says. “Every station has taken away something, whether that’s finding someone to agree to become a rep, or firefighters signing up to become regular donors.
“Whenever I’m doing this stuff I really enjoy it – I’m giving something back. I genuinely go home feeling good about myself.”
Stuart’s enthusiasm for and devotion to the Charity is clear to see and, when you consider his own first-hand experience of its services, it’s easy to understand why.
“I’ve always known about the Charity,” he says. “My first experience of it came when I went to Jubilee for rehabilitation following an operation on my knee. It was brilliant, out of this world. I never thought I could do so much on a knee that had been operated on only a few months before. They’re long hard days, you’re not there to slack, you’re there to work, but I got back on the run sooner than I thought I would be able to.”
However, as his growing family were also eligible beneficiaries of the Charity, Stuart’s children were able to benefit from its services, as he explains; “Two of my sons, Luke (11) and Oliver, (7) have both been diagnosed with autism, ADHD, (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) Tourette’s and dyspraxia, and Oliver additionally with pathological demand avoidance. I found out about the Charity’s Child and Family Week at Harcombe House and have been twice with the boys. They’re out of this world, they’re fantastic. It’s more than you’d ever do with your kids in a week of your lives, but you’re doing it with people with children with the similar diagnoses. You’re made to feel that nothing’s an issue or problem.
“My father-in-law, a retired firefighter, has had two quite catastrophic brain injuries in the last three years which sadly left him severely disabled, unable to speak or walk. He and his wife Sheila have also accessed the services, first for recuperation and then for nursing care along with rehabilitation for Sheila just before Christmas.
“Three generations of my family have used four of the services, which has given me a great understanding of the Charity’s incredible work and spurred me on even more. I always said I’d help Pete, but why wouldn’t I take this on after using all of the facilities?”
Humble, hard-working and selfless, Stuart Plaskett is just one example of our exceptional Charity volunteers across the UK, all of whom are vital to our continued success. Without them the Charity simply wouldn’t be able to function, so if Stuart’s story inspires you, why not consider becoming a volunteer yourself?Share your story