Clerk goes down, firefighters ring up customers

Kent County

LOWELL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A recent medical call for some eastern Kent County firefighters shows just how faithfully they take their customer service pledge.

It was after midnight on Jan. 7. Duncan Elliott, a clerk at the J & H Family Store on Alden Nash Avenue at I-96 near Alto, wasn’t feeling well. First, he called his boss for some relief help. Then he called 9-1-1 for some medical help.

“We’ll get a call like that. It happens fairly regularly,” Alto-Bowne Township Fire Department Deputy Chief Andy Vanderziel told News 8 Thursday.

He, along with Capt. Chris Wieland, firefighter-EMT Jake Lotterman and firefighter Jim Hamann answered the page. Within minutes, they were at the store, helping the clerk.

“We took care of our patient. The ambulance crew came. We got them on the stretcher. He went into the hospital,” Vanderziel said.

“Me and Jim got the guy to the ambulance. I came back in and Chris was checking people out,” Lotterman said.

You see, there was a little problem. The employee called in to take over the store hadn’t yet arrived.

“Customers were coming in, wanting to buy gas, buy pop, whatever, and there’s nobody else to help them,” Vanderziel said.

“They weren’t pushy and upset. We weren’t doing anything. They literally just wanted to get some snacks and get on the road. So I felt bad and thought we could help them out,” Wieland said.

So with the same perseverance he uses to attack a house fire or cut someone out of a wrecked car, Wieland went to work behind the counter.

“Getting the drawer open was a little tricky,” he said. “I kept hitting, pushing a button and it kept saying something: ‘error.’ And I hit cancel and I could finally find the cash register button.”

He was able to get everyone through the line and out the door before the replacement clerk arrived.

Elliott, the clerk who got sick and has since recovered, said he didn’t realize Wieland had taken over for him until co-workers showed him the surveillance video the next day. He thanked the crew for all they did.

“They were really cool. They didn’t need to do that,” Elliott said.

There’s a saying among firefighters that there’s no such thing as a routine call. They know things can change in an instant and are skilled at adapting to those changes.

“I don’t think there’s any other department that wouldn’t do what we did,” Vanderziel said. “Firefighters, the fire industry, we’re here to help. It doesn’t really matter what capacity, or in what role. That’s what we’re here for.”

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