About five years ago, Scott Adkins found himself in O’Fallon Fire Chief Brent Saunders’ office, discussing the possibility of becoming the department’s chaplain.
“I was on a quest,” he says.
Adkins said he was looking to do two things.
He was looking to serve those who serve.
At the same time, Adkins, the manager of Jack Schmitt’s Premium Car Wash in O’Fallon, was looking to find an answer to a question.
“I’m somewhat of an observer of human behavior, so this question was especially interesting to me,” he says.
Adkins was looking for the answer on “What makes someone run toward something that everyone else is running away from.”
What Adkins didn’t know at the time was that the O’Fallon fire chief had his own question to answer.
Adkins has since found out that the question Saunders wanted him to answer was specifically about himself.
His question to Adkins was would he show up when he was called.
Five years later, Adkins has come to the conclusion that the fire chief’s question was one that must be answered by all firefighters.
While reflecting about this question recently, Adkins asked himself how does something like the O’Fallon Fire Department get to be 125 years old?
“What causes an organization, like the O’Fallon Fire Department to live on for that amount of time?” Adkins says.
He doesn’t think funding has anything to do with it.
“And I don’t believe that an abundance or resources is the reason,” Adkins adds.
He believes the reason the OFD has not only survived, but thrived for 125 years is because time and time again, the firefighters have answered age-old question.
“Yes, they have said, yes, ‘I will show up,’” Adkins says.
Adkins, who is not paid for his service, is on call every minute of the day, every day of the year.
Among other things, he provides confidential support to firefighters. He also is there to assist in the physical and emotional needs of people in their times of crisis.
Adkins said he wanted to become a chaplain after he talked with Belleville Fire Department Chaplain Darrell Coons.. Coons told Adkins then that he was doing some work as a fire chaplain.
“I thought, that’s fascinating,” Adkins recalls.
After meeting with Coons, Adkins called Saunders about becoming a chaplain with the OFD.
“It went from there,” he says.
Adkins now works with the firefighter families, especially after a traumatic experience.
He also occasionally works with victim families after a house fire or car accident.
“We just have to keep in my mind, that we are dealing with people on one of the worst days of their lives,” he says.
Adkins, however, spends most of his time working with the local firefighters and their families.
“Firefighters see things that most of us cannot even imagine on a regular basis,” he says.
Adkins said firefighters need a way to process what they see.
As Adkins sees it, he is now offering his peers “a ministry of presence.”
Outside his role as the OFD chaplain, Adkins has performed a number of firefighters weddings, marital weddings and helped a number of their children. He also has officiated a number of funerals, too.
“You just get to be a part of people’s lives,” he said. “It’s such a big family.”
Adkins enjoys having a presence and be a part in the firefighter’s family.
“I think the firefighters know that I am (here),” he says.
“There is a stereotype that firefighters are cold, hard and have no emotion. But that’s not just true. They really have feelings and they have thoughts that they need to process like everybody else. But they have a job to do that we count on them to do, which people often take for granted,” he says.
Mark Hodapp: 618-239-2688