When Mike Kolenkiewicz jumps on the fire truck with his new “second family,” starts the engine and heads to a call, there’s often actual family on board with him — his son-in-law, Sam Ford.
Ford is married to one of Kolenkiewicz’s daughters, Becca, and has been volunteering with the Jenkintown Fire Department’s Pioneer Fire Company #1 for almost three years; Kolenkiewicz made the decision to join in late 2021, after years of consideration.
Kolenkiewicz always had a desire to give back to his community by volunteering ever since he moved to the area 20 years ago. His volunteer-firefighter friends would encourage him to join, but between a full-time job as a lineman with Verizon, and being a husband and a father of two daughters, it just wasn’t something he felt he was able to commit to.
“I coached my two daughters’ sports teams,” he said. “I never really had the time to be a firefighter.”
But now that his daughters are older and his coaching responsibilities have lessened (he still coaches a bowling team), he finally decided he was able to commit and filled out an application.
Ford says it is “awesome” to volunteer with Kolenkiewicz. He says his father-in-law takes all of the classes that are offered, and seeks out advice and knowledge from veteran firefighters. Kolenkiewicz’s eagerness to join and help his community doesn’t come as a surprise.
“He’s so down to earth and would help out anyone down in luck,” Ford said. “He’s such a people person.”
Even though he’s newer to volunteer firefighting, Kolenkiewicz says he can’t help but try to play a father-figure role in that he’s often checking up on Ford by making sure he’s prepared and has all of his gear ready to go, but he knows that he doesn’t truly need to pester him.
“Sam has a go-getter attitude; he really enjoys being a firefighter,” Kolenkiewicz said. “He’s taken a lot of courses that’ll help him along in his career.”
And it’s possible that volunteer firefighting will one day be passed down to the next generation. Ford and his wife (Kolenkiewicz’s daughter) have two young sons under three years old, one who is already in awe of firefighting.
“My oldest grandson loves the fire trucks,” Kolenkiewicz said.
“I want to be a firefighter!” Ford said his son often exclaims.
A National Guard member since 2017, Ford has also always had a desire to serve his community.
“I truly believe that people can make a difference,” he said.
Ford says that volunteer firefighting has helped turn him into a jack of all trades, and has taught him lessons that’ll help him not only when he’s on a call, but will last him a lifetime. Ford cites examples such as first aid skills, tying rope, helping somebody tow their broken-down car.
“At Pioneer we are fire suppression, but we really have to adapt and do everything,” he said. “We’re making sure that trucks, equipment, air packs are good to go, and that all tools are working and kept in shape.”
Both father and son-in-law encourage others to consider volunteer firefighting, as it’s made a difference in many regards for the both of them. It’s strengthened their bond, increased their skillsets, and they both are proud to know they’re serving and helping their neighbors in Jenkintown.
“Just do it; there’s something for everyone to do!” Kolenkiewicz said. “If you have the time to help the community, there’s nothing like it.”
“Do it!” Ford echoed, noting how supportive his fellow volunteer-firefighters at Pioneer have been. “They’re the best people you can ever be around.”
For any Jenkintown residents who would like to “be the neighbor who saves a neighbor,” visit https://fightjenkintownfires.org/. The department – which includes Pioneer Fire Company and Independent Fire Company – welcomes individuals to join as firefighters, fire police, and contributing members.
Photo caption: Father- and son-in-law Mike Kolenkiewicz and Sam Ford volunteer together at Jenkintown Fire Department’s Pioneer Fire Company #1.