Harlem volunteer firefighters gathered over Lowcountry boil on Monday to honor one of their own.
Volunteer Jeff McCoy was honored as the Harlem Department of Public Safety's 2009 Firefighter of the Year at its annual meeting.
"I'm just glad to be a part of it," said McCoy, an Appling resident.
McCoy said he's been volunteering with the department for about three years after a fellow firefighter and friend encouraged him. But he didn't immediately join up.
"Once I got here, I knew that I belonged here," McCoy said. "All these guys made me feel like I belonged here. ... Once I got up here, I wish I'd come up here the first time he told me about it."
McCoy, jokingly dubbed "Dr. McCoy" by colleagues in his EMT class, is an asset to the department as a firefighter and medical first responder, said Capt. Tripp Lonergan. McCoy is an active volunteer, attending training and public events and responding to fire calls.
McCoy had hip replacement surgery a year ago and attended training meetings just two weeks later. He's often found hanging around the firehouse doing whatever needs to be done.
"He's here early on training nights," Lonergan said. "He stays. He cleans up. He never says a word. He takes the trash out. He cleans up the trucks, cleans up the station. All the time, he's just here. All you have to do is call him."
McCoy wasn't the only firefighter shown appreciation at the meeting. Before the fire department merged with the police force to form the Harlem Department of Public Safety, volunteers received a small credit on their water bills for their service. The practice ended with the merger, and many volunteers weren't on city water.
City council members presented volunteer firefighters with a check for the same nominal monthly amount and said plans are to continue the payment as a thank-you for their service, said City Councilman John Thigpen.
"We definitely appreciate everything that you all do, all the time," City Councilwoman Robin Root told the group of current and retired volunteers at the meeting. "It may not be a lot, that check, but it is something to show you that we do care about what y'all are doing.
"We appreciate every time you go out there and lay your lives on the line."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.