Greg Nicholson, plant manager of Greif’s plastic plant in Belleville, Ontario, thrives most when he’s active.
“I’m not good at sitting around,” said Greg.
The lifestyle Greg has chosen doesn’t allow for much leisure. Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Greg oversees a staff of 23 that produces plastic drums for their customers. Greg has worked with Greif since 1987 and was promoted to manager in 1995. In addition to his duties at Greif, Greg is an on-call volunteer firefighter for the Centre Hastings Fire Department in Ontario. At any point of any day, Greg could receive a call to respond to an emergency.
On September 22, 2018, with his two sons standing at his side, Greg was honored with an “Exemplary Performance and Service” medal for 25 years of service to his community.
“It’s very humbling. The reason people join this service is not for recognition or pay, but to give back to their community and neighbors.”
It was in back 1993 when Greg was approached by a neighbor about joining the fire department.
“My neighbor at the time was new to the volunteer fire service and he told me I should try it out. He said it’s a great group of guys. I indicated I was interested in joining.”
Knowing he would need to have the duty approved, Greg went to his bosses at Greif. He explained that as an on-call responder, he might need to leave work at any moment.
“They gave me an immediate yes. Greif is very community-oriented. They know that the reason I would leave work is to support the community in which I live and support people who are in need.”
Major emergencies occasionally pull Greg out of the plant. Structure fires, brush fires and multiple vehicle accidents are the most common. He estimates over the course of a year, he might receive an average of 120 calls to respond. Sometimes they come in during the work day and sometimes in the middle of the night.
When he does leave his plant, he relies on his assistant managers, each of whom have been with Greif for a range of 10 to 46 years. Even during his times of temporary absence, Greg says the plant doesn’t miss a beat.
During his 25 years of service, Greg has impacted hundreds of lives in the Belleville community. He’s saved lives by carrying individuals out of burning buildings and saved memories by putting out fires before homes are fully destroyed.
When he joined the department, Greg never thought his years of service would reach a quarter century, but 10 years ago his oldest son Douglas joined the team.
“I said to my wife, I need to stay to make sure he gets the training he needs to keep him safe in these situations. Three to four years after he joined, my youngest son, Joshua, joined our same department. I needed to make sure he received the same training and to this point I haven’t left.”
Greg doesn’t have a plan to step away from either of his roles. His first love was manufacturing, which is why he remains at Greif. He also has a strong affinity for being a helping hand for those in dire need.
“It’s very rewarding to give back to your community and be able to help your neighbor out. People call the fire department when they’re having the worst day of their life. If you can be there to help make it a little less traumatic, it gives you a good feeling inside.”
Photo: Greif's Greg Nicholson received an “Exemplary Performance and Service” medal for 25 years of service to the Centre Hastings Volunteer Fire Department. His sons Douglas (left) and Joshua (right), joined him at the ceremony.