TOWNSEND — Those who work to serve and protect the public do not do so for personal recognition. Oftentimes, they do not even receive a thank you for all that they do, (although they often don’t expect one, either).
However, even those who never seek accolades still deserve them when they are given. This year, Nashoba Publishing is proud to announce Wanda Goodwin — paramedic for the Townsend Fire-EMS Department — as the winner of its Extraordinary Service Award for all she has done throughout her years of often-unrecognized service.
“Wanda has been in charge of the SAFE program in Townsend for a number of years now,” said Chief Donald Klein, who nominated Goodwin for the award. “When she took it over, it was in disarray. The state had cut back on funding, so it was hit-or-miss at best. Wanda reorganized everything and has been working diligently to get contributions from local people.”
The SAFE program — Student Awareness of Fire Education — is an educational one for second-graders, in a similar vein to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program run by police departments across the country. Instead of educating children about how to protect themselves from drug pushers and the like, this program focuses on fire safety.
“Somebody needs to help educate the kids,” Goodwin said simply, lamenting that modern parents have less and less time to teach their kids important things like fire safety and prevention.
“I feel the program is very important in that the things they aren’t necessarily being taught at home any more we can pick-up the pieces.”
She acknowledged that the television public service announcements featuring cartoon characters and talking household items are no longer as prevalent on most basic stations and standard cable channels, once valuable tools in teaching children about fire prevention and safety.
For Goodwin, SAFE gives her a chance to impart that vital information to children in just as entertaining a fashion.
She believes the program has already paid dividends.
“It has lessened fires in town … we have a lot less than we had 20 years ago.”
“It teaches kids what to look for, to stop, drop and roll, about 911, electrical safety and things in the kitchen that should and shouldn’t be done,” Klein explained. It also teaches children not to be afraid of firefighters when they are in full dress, by having at least one come to the school decked out in full “call-out gear.”
The department hopes to expand beyond just second grade in the coming years, and Goodwin continues to seek grants to support the educational program.
“Having Wanda and the other firefighters come in it removes a fear that (the children) have of someone coming in with a uniform,” Gwen Warwick, Spaulding Memorial School principal, said. She has worked closely with Goodwin since taking the helm at the school five years ago.
“They develop a relationship with children, so when they see them around town, they feel comfortable and aren’t afraid to ask for help.”
Deputy Chief David Roy also praised Goodwin’s work with the program.
“Really, over the years, she kind of led that whole program and did a phenomenal job,” he said.
However, the department’s appreciation for all Goodwin has done runs deeper than that. Roy credited her and Capt. Michael Grimley for keeping the department organized and running as smoothly as possible during the recent years of leadership turmoil.
“They practically ran the office together; it’s hard to find people who are consistent and hang in there,” Roy said. “She was a huge asset to the department and the townspeople are better for it.”
Goodwin now works as an on-call paramedic and recently completed her officer training as a firefighter, having taken a private service job to maintain her license. Even with the change, though, her dedication to the department hasn’t wavered.
“What’s unique is that she’s balanced this between her full-time job, going to school to get her bachelor’s degree at night, and taking classes to become a paramedic,” Klein said, effusive in his praise for Goodwin as a paramedic as well as an educator. “She’s a mother and a wife and she’s done a tremendous job getting this program back up and running. The kids look forward to it every year.”
“She has an unbelievable commitment to teaching young children how to be safe,” Warwick said. “That’s a life skill, so important for kids. To teach children what they need to do in an emergency, give them confidence what to do, it’s amazing. She’s done a wonderful job and they really love working with her. She has a very outgoing personality that sparks (their) interest right away. It’s been wonderful to work with her.”
When the program ends for the year, Goodwin brings in a SAFE trailer, filled with simulated fire events and items that the children have spent so much time learning about. Participants in the program receive a T-shirt, a certificate and a pizza party to commemorate their hard work.
“They really have a lot of fun with that trailer,” she laughed and recounted numerous expressions of “Wow, this is cool!” from her students.
Klein, and many others in the department, believes that Goodwin should receive more credit than she does and couldn’t be prouder to nominate her for the award.
“We’re a small town; we don’t have a lot of fires,” the chief reasoned. “Based on what Wanda has done and how long she’s put in for SAFE. program, juggle all the things and do the job as well as she’s done, deserves recognition.”
“It’s nice to know you’re appreciated for the work that you do,” Goodwin admitted. “Sometimes you can make a difference.”