'It's in your heart to help others': Celebrating the volunteer spirit

Ricky Ridge and other Enbridge volunteers create a ripple effect in communities

As chief of the Wortham, Texas, Volunteer Fire Department, Ricky Ridge has interviewed many a potential recruit over the years.

And as character traits go, he knows what he’s looking for.

“I make a point of asking them, ‘Why do you want to be in a volunteer fire department? At times you’ll be in harm’s way, and often times you’ll work your butt off for no pay,’ ” says Ridge.

“The answer I’m looking for is: ‘I like to help people.’ If it’s not in their heart to help others, there’s no reason for them to be doing it. This is a unique organization . . . I still think it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life.”

Ridge, a senior operations technician in Enbridge’s Gas Pipelines and Processing division, has worked in pipelines for 34 years. He’s also spent 26 years as a volunteer firefighter – the past several as fire chief in Wortham, where about 20 selfless souls look after a population of about 1,600 in an 81-square-mile region of central Texas.

Ridge and the members of Wortham FD jump into action for about 150 calls a year – acting as critical first responders to medical emergencies, wildland fires, motor vehicle accidents, and structure fires, where every moment counts and lives can hang in the balance.

“This is a year-round volunteer commitment,” says Ridge. “Speaking personally, it takes up about half of my free time. To be a volunteer fire chief, you’ve really just got to look at it as a second job.”

This is National Volunteer Week in both the United States and Canada – a week set aside to celebrate the widespread ripple effect of volunteer efforts on communities across North America.

At Enbridge, we encourage our own employees to make a lasting impact on their communities through volunteering. Our Volunteers in Partnership (VIP) program helps our people maximize their contributions of time and money to charitable organizations in countries where Enbridge does business, providing additional support through paid volunteer time and top-up financial contributions.

In 2014, Enbridge’s enterprise-wide VIP program awarded nearly $280,000 in grants, and saw nearly 1,000 employees devote more than 3,000 work hours and 13,000 non-work hours to non-profit organizations in their communities. Since its launch in 2010, the VIP program has engaged more than 5,000 employees, who have donated more than 12,000 work hours and 30,000 non-work hours – and provided more than $1.3-million – in communities across the U.S. and Canada.

From Ridge’s perspective, Enbridge’s culture of volunteerism – and company-wide focus on safety – combine to produce healthier, more vibrant, and more secure communities.

“I know we’ve got quite a few volunteers firefighters in the area here who work for Enbridge,” he says. “I consider myself fortunate to work for a company like Enbridge, that’s so adamant about safety. I use the same philosophy and apply it at the fire department.

“Hats off to all of those who volunteer,” he adds, “for whatever reason they choose.”