WOODBURY – During her time as the Chief of the Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department, Janet Morgan has had dozens of residents ask her about joining the group.
But until September, Morgan had only had people approach her about becoming a firefighter. That’s when Jeff Grant asked about volunteering as the department’s chaplain.
“I thought it was a real nice idea,” Morgan said, adding that the Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department has always partnered with churches in the community when there was a need.
“We’re not replacing them, Jeff just going to be part of our internal ranks and we will call on him at any time,” Morgan said. “I think it’s a great thing that he approached us to participate.”
New Resident, but Not a Stranger
Grant, 62, recently moved to Woodbury from Greenwich. He was attracted to the community while his stepdaughter attended The Gunnery. When he and his wife, Lynn Springer, would visit his stepdaughter, they would often come to Woodbury to eat and antique.
An ordained minister, Grant said he is not a stranger to helping Woodbury residents in a time of need. While she was in college, Grant’s stepdaughter texted him with news that there was a fire at her former roommate’s home in Woodbury.
Grant found himself reaching out to that family to offer his help, and a place to stay.
“On one level I’m sure they were frightened, and on one level they were in shock,” Grant said. “When lightning strikes your home and you’re not sure what that’s going to mean, that’s clearly an opportunity, as clergy, to be present.”
Grant said that was when he first had the thought of reaching out to Morgan about volunteering with the Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department.
“Everyone here is a volunteer, and I wanted to provide some level of comfort to the firefighters, but also to the people who are affected, whether it’s a fire in their home or a car accident,” Grant said.
While he won’t go out to every call, Grant has an app on his phone that alerts him to 911 calls. Most of those calls are routine, and don’t require the help and services he can give.
“But when I do see that there’s something I can be helpful with, I’ll either go to the location or be in contact with the chief and she’ll communicate with me,” Grant said.
Who is Jeff Grant?
Grant turned to the clergy after a lengthy career as a real estate attorney. Grant entered the seminary in 2009 and his master’s in divinity with a focus in Christian Social Ethics in 2012.
From there, Grant, who lived in Greenwich at the time, accepted an assignment with the First Baptist Church in Bridgeport. While there, Grant became the Executive Director of Family ReEntry, Inc., a nonprofit reentry support group which has since grown to include intervention, reentry, and family and children programs.
Grant is also the co-founder of Progressive Prison Ministries in Greenwich, and the co-host of the radio show Criminal Justice Insider.
Though working with the prison system and prison reentry may seem a far cry from his role as the department chaplain, Grant sees a lot of similarities. For one, he’s working with people who are in their most vulnerable state.
“It’s all about having a heart of compassion and empathy,” Grant said. “People are people, and a lot of people we deal with in prison ministry and non-profits are marginalized and oppressed people, usually from difficult circumstances.”
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