IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y.-- Maybe she should be called a real-life "Nanny 911."
When the sirens sound off for volunteers with Irondequoit's Sea Breeze Fire Department, Caroline Larkin is among those who dash to respond, even if it means jumping out of bed in the middle of the night.
This tiny, grandmotherly ball of fire won't be hopping into any turnout gear, however. Instead, she heeds another emergency call: caring for the kids of firefighters who have no one else.
"When the tones go off, I come up here and wait; if no children come in, I do whatever else needs to be done," Larkin said.
Maybe it's making coffee or setting out donuts for the fire volunteers.
Larkin has been the Sea Breeze Fire District's volunteer "House Mom" since September.
So far she has watched volunteers' children a couple of times, usually for daytime fire calls. She even "doggie sat" for a volunteer on Halloween.
Her son, Ken Mayer, and his friend Jeff Ambroz are active volunteers and firefighters in Sea Breeze. Her role is the brainchild of Sea Breeze Chief John McDonald.
"I had a person interested in joining ask me if we had a 'station mom,'" McDonald said, "and I asked him what that was."
That person was from a place that had such a person: someone the firefighters can rely on to provide child care when calls come in.
"I started looking into it and thought this was one more service we could provide," McDonald said.
He hopes the service will be a good recruiting tool for new volunteers. "Babysitters are hard to get at a moment's notice," he said.
Sea Breeze has about 30 volunteers.
Larkin is happy to help out, and to be around the kids.
"I really like doing something that's needed; I've always been that way," she said.
She already plans to stock a corner of the firehouse with games, but says her young charges have most enjoyed watching cartoons on the big-screen TV. She has sports a blue uniform shirt too; the "brass" is on order.
Ambroz said as far as he knows, Larkin is one of the first "House Moms" in the area.
McDonald said Larkin will be taking CPR training and possibly further first aid and child-care training. He'll probably also be "fine tuning" the service and possibly even adding a second volunteer who can rotate with Larkin, McDonald said.
"We don't have to (offer the service), but I figured, why not go the extra mile?" McDonald said, recalling that already a fire-truck driver showed up for a call with his child in tow, wondering what to do.
Larkin took over.
"He couldn't thank me enough," she recalled.
Republished with permission of the Messenger Post.