The Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORS® who've made an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in their communities through volunteer work. Five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their cause. The 2009 deadline will be May 22.
2008 Good Neighbor Finalists Announced
Matthew J. Schrum Northampton Township Volunteer Fire Department
Real-Life Rescue Hero
BY CHRISTINA HOFFMANN SPIRA
For volunteer firefighter Matthew J. Schrum, ABR, e-Pro, GRI, the most rewarding and the most dangerous moments often come all at once.
Once, the Northampton Township, Pa., firefighter was paged at 2 a.m. to respond to a fire in a two-unit building. Smoke was so thick and flames so fierce that Schrum and his colleagues couldn’t enter the building. So by ladder, they rescued a pregnant woman from a second-floor window and another woman and her dog from the other side of the building.
His colleague of 19 years, Fire Chief Robert Sutherland Jr., stresses that Schrum isn’t one to crow about such heroics. “Schrum’s one of the key players in the department, but he’s not looking for the limelight.”
Indeed, Schrum has managed many quiet heroics over the years. A few years ago he and his colleagues were called to a two-car accident, where a teenager was trapped in one car with a broken leg. It was a tough extraction, Schrum says. About a month later, the boy appeared at the firehouse, on crutches, to thank Schrum and his colleagues.
“We do this on a daily basis,” Schrum modestly notes about the incident. “So we don’t think about it. But the recognition was nice.”
Schrum has been active in the fire department since before he graduated from high school in 1983. He joined the department as a junior firefighter and rose through the ranks to deputy chief. That means he pinch-hits for the chief, talks to the press, oversees the budget, and coordinates fire ground command during calls.
Between emergency calls and administrative duties, Schrum spends at least 20 hours a week working for the township’s 100-percent Volunteer Fire Department, which takes 650 calls a year. He devotes another 40-plus hours a week to real estate as a salesperson with Weichert, REALTORS®.
“If I’m in town, I’m available for fire calls as long as I’m not working with a client,” Schrum says. “It seems like every Thanksgiving or Christmas, when we sit down to dinner, I get a call. It’s tough on my wife, but she’s supportive. She’s got the same mentality I do: If everyone said, ‘I can’t do it now,’ no one would do it.”
How has firefighting affected his three-year real estate career? “Beyond belief,” he says. “Eighty percent of my business comes from the volunteers in emergency services. But I don’t make it a point to shake hands at the fire company and say, ‘I’m in real estate.’ I don’t want to convey the impression that I’m in the fire company to make money. That’s not what it’s all about.”
To make his tight schedule hum, Schrum conducts 95 percent of his real estate administrative duties from his home office, which cuts down on interruptions. Plus, if he’s not with a client, he can take a fire call in the middle of the day—a huge benefit to the township because the manpower shortage is worst Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., he notes. But when he goes out with a client, his pager stays home.
Schrum’s dedication to his community is matched by his lifelong commitment to his fellow volunteers. He inherited that sense of duty from his grandfather, also a volunteer firefighter. As a child, Schrum witnessed his grandfather taking fire calls. And he was struck even then by the fact that the volunteers represented all walks of life. Insurance reps, doctors, and construction workers joined together to give their time freely to the community. Regardless of what career he ended up in, Schrum knew then he was bound to serve.
Note: If you do not have the required RealPlayer browser plugin, you can download a free version of RealPlayer Basic from www.real.com.
These videos should work with Netscape version 4.5 and higher and Internet Explorer version 4.5 and higher. Need help installing RealOne Player? Use these instructions.