Franklin may be “the town that time forgot,” as the unofficial slogan goes for the quaint Oakland County village, but its residents certainly never forget to donate their own time. From historical societies to fire departments, volunteers power an impressive number of local organizations in the historic village.
Tony Averbuch has been the Fire Chief in Franklin for almost ten years, but his career fighting fires began as a volunteer in 1991. Of the 31 members in Averbuch’s current department, 29 are volunteers, and they manage to staff the local station around the clock. Averbuch believes everyone volunteers for different reasons, including wanting to give back to their communities, starting out in the field and looking to get training and experience, and having time available to experience something different. He believes that Franklin defies a national trend of diminishing civic participation.
“While we are approximately 80 percent volunteer departments nationwide,” Averbuch explains, “the individual numbers are on the decline.”
Averbuch admits that, even for his enthusiastic team, it’s not always easy relying on volunteer power. “Challenges do exist working with volunteers,” he says, “but they also exist working with full-time staff.”
Averbuch says their most significant opposition is always time. “Time for training, time for staffing, time for response,” he says.
“Time” is exactly what other organizations in the village are looking to preserve. Bill and Ann Lamott are behind the Franklin Historical Society, an organization supported solely by memberships and donations and run by volunteers. They encourage the upkeep of historical structures in Franklin, and Bill Lamott says the volunteer attitude is due to residents wanting to be active in their community.
“The dedicated always make themselves available,” he says.
Dedicated indeed are other residents too, like the volunteers involved in the village Mobile Watch program, Friends of the Franklin Library group and the Franklin Baseball and Softball League. Jane Polan is president of the Franklin Community Association (FCA), which maintains parkland donated by historic villager George Wellington Smith. The FCA also organizes strolling dinners, wine tastings, summer family events, outdoor movies and a fine art fair.
“Franklin is what it is,” says Polan, “A truly wonderful place to live, because of our volunteers.”
Averbuch agrees, and his message to residents is clear: “Participate, get involved, and make a difference.”