And then there are the special ones.
It was one of those special ones honoured as the Rotary Club of St. John’s Firefighter of the Year.
Matthew Leonard, a member of the Central Fire Station, was presented with the award during Rotary’s weekly luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in St. John’s Thursday.
“The person we are honouring here today subscribes to Rotary’s motto of ‘service above self,’” Rotarian Bob Andrews said.
The award is given annually to a St. John’s Regional Fire Department member for their service, bravery on the job, and community and humanitarian service.
“It’s a good thing this is a big atrium to get my head in here with all the heavy accolades being handed out,” Leonard said.
But after making that quip, Leonard was quick to get back on point and give credit to the group of men and women he works with every day, all of them trying to make a difference in the lives of the community they work in and live in.
He said when he joined the fire service nearly 10 years ago he was told by a veteran firefighter he had joined something that was bigger than he was and he should do something to show his gratitude and make the best of the good fortune bestowed on him.
And while some may find this dynamic too burdensome and shy away from being part of the charge to make change, Leonard, like all firefighters, rushes through the door when others are rushing out.
“We are obligated to the community. We are obligated to our family. We are obligated to the men and women that serve beside us every day during every manner of tragedy. We are obligated to ourselves,” he said.
“This is no small responsibility and I am thankful to be surrounded by the men and women that assume their obligation, to be the best they can for others and for themselves. It is on their behalf I accept this recognition today.”
Colleagues make nomination
Leonard’s C-Shift Central Fire Station colleagues nominated him for his stellar work as a firefighter and his volunteer work in the local community and worldwide.
“Matt’s involvement in bunker gear drives, sharing education and local activities are the fundamental cornerstones for this nomination,” firefighter Geoff O’Brien said on Leonard’s behalf.
His work includes being an advocate for Firefighters Without Borders, where he has collected gear for firefighters in Panama, El Salvador, Columbia and Venezeula.
“Should any of you vacation to Guatamala, you may see firefighters working there wearing protective equipment from Torbay, St. John’s or Harbour Grace, just to name a few,” he said, noting he and other firefighters have offered their expertise in training and education as instructors.
In addition to this venture, he organizes a Christmas food drive and a school supplies drive, works the Christmas Kettle Campaign and volunteers his time for various telethons and radiothons to help make children’s lives better throughout the community.
And he still has time in his life to be a dad, a son, a partner and a good friend to those who know him.
“His unwavering commitment to the profession and the public cannot go without notice,” O’Brien said.
“Through Firefighters Without Borders and his involvement in the local community, Matt has gone above and beyond the call of duty to give to those in need,” he added.