MULGRAVE: During African Heritage Month, the volunteer fire department has decided to honour one of its own.
Wanda Keeping is the first African Nova Scotian to become a member of the Mulgrave Volunteer Fire Department.
“Back in the day, I wanted to be an ER nurse but when this opportunity came up to join the fire department and be a first responder, I said, ‘oh great, I’d love to help the town and it would be something I’d like to do,’” she recalled.
In addition to the fire department, Keeping was named the Town of Mulgrave’s Volunteer of the Year for her work in the community.
“I just like helping people, that’s me,” she said. “If someone needs help, I’m there to help them, whether it’s from the fire department, whether it’s personal, whether it’s medical first responders, or ladies auxiliary, or whatever. If they need a helping hand, I’m just the helping hand.”
A life-long Mulgrave resident, Keeping said her parents would be proud of her accomplishment. She thanked the department for the honour.
“I just love volunteering,” she said. “It’s in me, I like to volunteer.”
She said she is “very proud” to make history, but was initially unaware of her accomplishment. After consulting older members of the department, Keeping was able to confirm she was the first.
“There were a few black people who lived in Mulgrave, there’s not many now, but I’m proud to be the first black woman, let alone black person,” she stated. “I’m very proud of that.”
Long-time department member Evangeline Breen said Keeping is a Medical First Responder, was a member of the ladies auxiliary for 25 years, and has been a member of the department itself for the past 18 years.
“She’s there to lend a helping hand whenever anyone needs a helping hand,” Breen said. “I never thought of doing it before but it was brought to our attention and we thought it would be nice to recognize her as a department, where it’s Black History Month.”
Breen, who was a member of the ladies auxiliary and served as department training officer, said the Mulgrave Heritage Museum has a section on Black heritage, which will include Keeping’s history-making moment.
“That is just awesome. For my kids or my grandkids to look back on it, say 50 or 60 years down the road, they can say, ‘that was my mom or that’s my grandmother,” Keeping added of the section in the museum. “They can have something to be proud of that their mom or grandma was the first… I’m just over the moon.”