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Fire Rescue Story

Fla. fire rescue chaplain provides solace
By Minerva Romo
Copyright 2007 Sun-Sentinel Company
All Rights Reserved


Name: Joe Guadagnino
Residence: Boca Raton
Birthplace: I was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Florida in 1971.
Career: Senior pastor of Solid Rock Christian Church in Boca Raton
Family: Wife Kathy; children Joey, 11, Megan, 15, Nikki, 16
Cause: I’m the chaplain for Boca Raton Fire Rescue Services.

Q. Describe your volunteer role.
A. I ride once a month with one of the stations; there are eight stations in Boca and four shifts. I try to move around to cover shifts. I do invocations for the badge ceremonies and I taught a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class and did another class on post-traumatic stress.

Q. Fire Chief Tom Wood just presented you with an official chaplain’s badge. How did that feel?
A. I think it kind of solidifies me as being a part of the Fire Department. Maybe I was at some point a bit of an outsider as clergy coming in, but this signifies becoming part of the team.

Q. What made you decide to volunteer for fire rescue?
A. A couple of firefighters started to attend the church, so they asked if I would be interested in volunteering. I liked to get involved with the city the best I can. I find that the members of Boca Raton Fire Rescue Services are such a great group of men and women.
Q. You became involved right after 9-11. Did those events prompt your decision to volunteer?
A. For me, it was more of a coincidence. I just happened to get involved around the same time, but I think 9-11 exposed a need. I think we all face certain tragedies in life, including firefighters and policemen. You think of them as being strong and invincible, but they also need people to turn to.

Q. How did your background influence your choice of volunteer work?
A. I have a Ph.D. Certain things come easier than others, but when you are talking about a tragedy like the ones firefighters and paramedics see every day, it doesn’t matter how qualified you are. There are only so many things you can say or do. It’s all about being there and walking through things.

Q. What have you gained from your volunteer work?
A. The satisfaction of having a lot of friends, and being there to be a presence of help in a time of trouble.

Q. Who are your role models?
A. Of course, I have the Lord as my model. My father, also Joe Guadagnino, has been a big influence in my life. He pastors a church in Deerfield Beach, and he is president of South Florida Bible College & Theological Seminary. I also really looked up to John Maxwell [an author and motivational speaker] for his leadership principles.

Q. Describe your most rewarding moment.
A. They have a trailer at the Fire Department that simulates a fire and I got to go in with Mayor Steven Abrams and we got to put the fire out. That was quite an experience.

Q. What have you learned?
A. That firefighters, police officers and paramedics are people with real feelings. You look at certain people like they are so strong and so macho, but they are real people with real feelings. They face car crashes with death and things like children drowning in pools.

Q. What advice would you give to others who want to volunteer?
A. You have to be pretty athletic to be involved with them. I have a daughter who is going to be 17. She’s a junior in high school and would love to steer her career with the Fire Department. That's how much I love Boca Raton Fire Rescue Services.