By BOB BRADLEY
Of The Times Staff
SOUTH HARRISON TWP. Bob
Avsec, who turned 21 less than a month ago, got his Christmas wish early this year as an
ambulance service for the township went into operation Monday at noon.
Avsec is president of the Unity Service Ambulance
Association, a group of 24 men and women who formed this summer to turn a dream into
realty. "We sort of had the attitude", reflects Avsec philosophically,
"that some people sit back and wait for things to happen and others make them happen.
We just wanted to be the latter."
And less than three hours after the volunteer organization began
providing the emergency medical service, it got its first call. At 2:40 p.m., an
elderly resident who had complications from a recent operation had to be rushed to
Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury.
It kind of made Bob Avsec and the members of his
organization feel good. The group had worked for months to raise the funds for the
$1,000 down payment on a used ambulance they purchased for $5,800 from the Harmony Fire
Co. in Mullica Hill. Money the association raised also went toward outfitting
"the rig" as Avsec calls the vehicle.
The Unity Ambulance squad hasn't received any
municipal funding to date, the group's president noted, adding that it's hoped that
situation will change in upcoming years.
In the meantime, the local association will provide
round-the-clock, township-wide emergency service seven days a week. Under a mutual
aid agreement, the squad will also back-up ambulance units, when needed, in neighboring
Elk, Harrison and Woolwich townships.
To provide the service here, Avsec said his
association has eight state certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) on its duty
roster. Additionally, some members have taken defensive driving courses and a pair
of ambulance squad members are certified by the American Red Cross in advanced first aid,
according to Avsec.
The association's president admits that the
ambulance plan stirred controversy by some officials earlier this year who believed that
an emergency medical service wasn't a priority item in this 16-square-mile community of
less than 1,500 residents. The township committee, however, voted in July to
recognize the association, clearing the way for a charter and incorporation.
"We've swung quite a few heads since
then," Avsec, who is employed with the township's road department said of the initial
controversy. We're getting a lot of good response."
In the past, ambulance service here was provided by
four neighboring units, but the bulk of the calls were answered by the Harmony squad in
Mullica Hill, to which the township committee gave a $300 annual donation.
Avsec said calls by township residents for
emergency medical assistance will continue to he handled by the central dispatcher in the
Mantua Township police department.
For now, the ambulance is being housed in the
garage of an association member, adjacent to St. John's Methodist Church in Harrisonville.
Avsec said a resident has donated a building for the ambulance, and when the
association gets the funds it will construct a garage for the 1971 model vehicle.
Eventually, the organization hopes to house the
ambulance in a new municipal building that is being considered. Avsec is looking for
more members for his group - men and women. We're definitely an equal opportunity
employer, "quipped the leader of the volunteer squad.
"We knew we could get this thing off the
ground before the end of the year," commented Avsec. "It really is a credit to
everyone involved that we could get everything done as fast as we did."