Ogdensburg rescue squad looking for help

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:56

    OGDENSBURG-The need for new members for the Ogdensburg First Aid Squad is constant, and a crisis looms for daytime coverage. On a regular basis, there might be two volunteers available during this time. That means that the designated individual must be able to respond to a call, requiring her or him to remain within a short distance of the borough. "The only thing we can guarantee the town," said member Ralph Rojas, "are the evening hours." He added, "We are fortunate enough, though, that between Sparta and Franklin, most of the time, we can get somebody. We work together." It's no easy task. Rojas said, "We demand that people are responsible and dedicated. We have a reputation for being a thorough squad when it comes to our patients and treating them with respect." The organization is expanding efforts to increase membership and is looking especially to recruiting junior members to secure the future of the squad. Although plans for an organized recruitment campaign will not be formulated until the spring, the squad is hoping word-of-mouth will bring in interested individuals. As most of the members are employed outside the area and are unable to answer calls during the day, Pat Sabourin, who works part-time at a pharmacy, is usually the only available member. To help relieve this difficult situation, there is a cooperative among three towns, Ogdensburg, Sparta, and Franklin, to answer calls. This mutual aid system consists of three separate squads whose members all are volunteers. Tradition and family ties surround the Ogdensburg First Aid Squad, whose membership numbers 20 plus six junior members. George and Pat Sabourin, with 32 and 28 years of service, respectively, are deeply involved in the day-to-day operation of the squad as well as the administrative responsibilities. Pat boasts that at one time, all the Sabourins, including their six children (five daughters and one son) were members of the squad. There are several father-son pairs: Dave Peck and son, Jeffrey; Mike Blahut and son, Eli; Don Pietrodangelo and son, Mike. Steven and Dan Matz are brothers. "But we consider each and every one of us as part of the family," said Pat. Of the group's present junior members, three are "riding," that is, they are at least 16 years old and have completed CPR training. The remaining three soon will be joining them as they become certified. Before they are of age and certified, the juniors help with some of the "grunt" work by maintaining the rigs, washing the vehicles, and performing their own drills. The squad building is equipped with some incentives for its younger members, including a billiard table and TV. There is also the focus of purpose and comradeship that appeals to the teenagers. Jeffrey Peck and Bobby Allen, who attend Pope John High School, have been friends since middle school. Peck has been waiting to join the squad, from the time he was a Webelo and learned of the emergency medical service. Allen joined at the suggestion of his friend and is glad he did. Both now have aspirations to become paramedics. They and Walkill Valley junior, Dan Matz, are certified for CPR and AED (automatic external defibrillator). As juniors are certified, they become part of a crew; crews are now operating on a five-day rotating basis with crew chiefs and two other members. Each crew is assigned from 6 p.m.-6 a.m., during with time they are "on-call" and available to respond. On weekends, the assigned crew is on-call for a 24-hour period. Training and education is under the sponsorship of Sussex County Community College, and each member must be recertified every three years. Three members have recently completed their training, but on the other hand, several members have taken a leave of absence. There is also a need for drivers of the rigs, freeing up the EMS workers. "The town supports us 100 percent," said Pat, but it's necessary for the squad to perform fundraisers. They are planning in May what they call a "walk around." The members will personally visit the residents of the borough seeking financial support and recruiting for new members. Senior member Michael Blahut is a recent member to the squad. He decided to volunteer because, "There is a satisfaction that you get, giving something back to the community." For more information on becoming a member, call 973-827-3800, leave a message, and you will be called as soon as possible.