CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Jason Elmore has walked several paths in life, none of which he ever planned.
For some people, Elmore was the face of the Chesterfield Fire Department. with whom he served for 20 years.
He originally wanted to join the police department, but a fateful quirk of the regulations changed his course.
"Once I became 18 years old, I realized I couldn't be a police officer until I was 21," Elmore said. "So I started volunteering as a firefighter. It didn't take long after that for me to realize this was going to be a career for me in public safety."
As a firefighter, Elmore spent half a century helping his community through some of its worst moments. Many of those moments have stuck with him, including a woman who was severely burned.
"We stopped for a moment and made sure we got her husband into the ambulance before we took her to the helicopter to make sure he was able to see her one last time," he recalled. "I hope that having that moment with her husband was some form of closure for him."
One of his main duties with Chesterfield Fire was Public Information Officer. A job in which he regularly updated the media on emergencies and rescue operations. Not at all what he had envisioned when he was younger.
"I was deathly afraid of speaking in public," he said. "I figured God had a different plan when he decided to call me to be a preacher as well."
The man who couldn't speak in public was not only in front of TV cameras but also in front of parishioners.
Elmore has been a pastor for the past 14 years. The last six he's spent at Ashbury United Methodist.
In both jobs, he deals with flames.
"In one career, I was trying to put out fires, and in my pastoral career, I'm trying to light fires for people with the Holy Spirit," he said.
Relationships have always been one of the most important things Elmore can create and develop. It forms the backbone of everything he believes and of which he hopes others believe in him.
"When people can trust you, they're more apt to believe in what you say. Doing it from the pulpit, or doing it to tell people to be prepared because of an emergency, if they can trust you, they're going to believe yo," he said.
Do they believe him in stripes?
Five years ago, Elmore fulfilled a long-held desire to become a high school football official. After understandably not thinking he would have time to spare on Friday nights, it's become another way for him to serve his community.
"It's been a blessing to me to be out there on the football field and once again," he said. "Building relationships with coaches and football players and maybe those players being able to say, 'Hey, these guys are normal guys out here too."
Elmore was on the field last Spring when Henrico High School student Samar Lemons was paralyzed during a routine play.
While his EMT skills were not necessary, Elmore tapped into his spiritual reserves to offer what comfort he could.
"Being able to show someone, in their most difficult time no matter what that is, that someone is there to care for them," he said. "On the field that night, I stood there and prayed the entire time that they were taken care of."
Elmore has found multiple ways to officiate and in the process multiple ways to give back to his community
"I just enjoy helping people and being there in their time of need," he said. "Working as a football official, just being out there on the field on a nice cool Friday night is just unbelievable. I love doing it."
For the last 18 months, Elmore has been the Deputy Director of Communications for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. They have been mobilized several times during that year and a half for more than just natural disasters.
He said he will continue as a football official as well, as the VHSL playoffs begin Friday night.
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