Morris' Efforts Benefit ECU, Stokes Communities
In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff members recognizes Dean Morris.
By Judy Currin
Dean Morris attributes his 18-year involvement with the Stokes Volunteer Fire Department to a neighbor’s words. Morris recalls the afternoon they met.
“I was working on my truck in the front yard of our home when the fire department alarm next door sounded.” Morris said. As the volunteers arrived, Chief Bruce Bland made his way across the 75-foot easement separating the department from Morris’s property.
“We need to talk,” Bland said. “Dean, as close as you live, we need to have you as a member of our department.”
Two months after marrying sweetheart Elaine Butler, he joined the department. “I really have two full-time jobs,” Morris said.
His position as facilities and operations director for ECU’s College of Health and Human Performance demands the majority of his time. Morris’ responsibilities include the administration, management and maintenance of the Belk Building, Christenbury Gym, the Fitt Building (Building 189), Minges Coliseum and Natatorium. He trains, schedules and supervises student workers as needed to operate the Minges facilities and indoor pool.
When his day ends at ECU, Morris steps into his role as chief of the Stokes Volunteer Fire Department. He oversees 45 volunteers whose ages range from 16-year-old junior firefighters to 65-year-old veterans. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Morris devotes 25 to 30 hours a week to the department.
“In a small community like Stokes,” Morris said, “when somebody suffers a loss it affects all of us.”
In the fall of 2005, one local family lost everything they owned in a house fire. The Stokes Volunteer Fire Department was there, not only to comfort, but also to assist the Red Cross in finding temporary shelter for the displaced family.
In 1999 when Hurricane Floyd’s flood waters devastated eastern North Carolina, Morris said, “the Stokes department had shelters in place and operational before the Red Cross arrived on the scene.”
“There are 20 volunteer fire departments in Pitt County,” Morris said. “The departments all try to help each other out.” The wives of the firemen make up the Ladies Auxiliary, which helps with fund raising and general maintenance.
Plans are underway to construct a new fire department directly behind the existing structure. The Auxiliary will help facilitate the move.
A dedicated employee and community volunteer, Morris is also a family man. He and his wife Elaine are parents of a 15-year-old daughter, Meredith, a member of the varsity volleyball team at North Pitt High School.
Extended hours away from home during severe weather are hard on Morris’ family, but they are behind him 100 percent. “Without their help and support there is no way I could do as much as I do for the fire department,” he said.
And while Morris’ position as chief affords him more visibility in the community, he is the first to acknowledge the value of teamwork. “It takes every member of the department to make things work,” he said.