Rise and fall of volunteerism

Published 8:24 am Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My friend and former co-worker Jay Jenkins is right when he said, “volunteers are fewer and fewer to be found.”

That statement was made on Thursday evening of last week during a meeting of the Woodland Town Commissioners. Jay, who serves as Woodland’s Mayor, and members of the town commission came face-to-face with a tough decision, one concerning the town’s EMS (Rescue) squad.

As is the case with the majority of rescue squads in our area, most are no longer staffed by volunteers. At one time that was a proud badge to wear within the community…to be a non-paid lifesaver, one that placed love of their fellow man as well as personal sacrifice far ahead of financial gain.

In Woodland’s case, those former volunteers are now paid by the town for their services. However, as a department within the town’s structure of government, they, like their counterparts (public works, streets, police, etc.) must operate within a budget. Apparently, the town’s financial ledger is showing a lot of red ink (to the tune of $60,029.71) under the listing of Woodland EMS.

Operating a rescue squad, especially one with paid personnel, doesn’t come cheap. Leaders of such a department have to keep a close eye on expenditures (vehicle purchase and maintenance, equipment purchases and mandated testing, insurance, training, building upkeep, etc.) vs. the revenue generated by making medical transports from the rescue calls they answer.

With limited financial resources of their own, Woodland officials cannot afford to supplement the EMS budget. Their lone option at this point, in an effort to bring the EMS budget back into balance, is to put the rescue squad back to volunteer status by the end of this month. The Mayor said that decision was business in nature, not a personal one.

“That’s not to say we’re going to close the doors and padlock it, sell the trucks and get out of the business. It means we simply cannot continue paying for service. We’re just not getting the money back,” he was quoted as saying in an article published Saturday in the News-Herald.

However, I know Jay….he was born during the day, but it wasn’t yesterday.

He and I, as well as most everyone, know that those paid EMS employees are not going to work for free. That’s their livelihood. That paycheck puts bread on their table and clothes on their back.

Without manpower, the Woodland EMS trucks do not roll. If they don’t roll, calls go unanswered. It would be great if there weren’t any medical calls to answer, but I listen to a police scanner every day and know that EMS units roll frequently….24/7/365.

The Woodland area’s only EMS option will come from Northampton County….having the county’s EMS units cover Woodland or possibly opening a satellite location in the Woodland EMS facility (much like Hertford County is planning to do with the old Ahoskie Rescue Squad building).

It’s sad to see volunteerism on the decline.

It’s frightening to think of what may be on the horizon….paid firefighters, Red Cross workers, Meals on Wheels helpers, youth recreation coaches, educational tutors, etc. Without volunteers, we’ll all have to dig a little deeper in our pockets.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal