Published 9:20 am Thursday, September 18, 2014
It was born out of necessity.
It has survived through the sheer will power of men and women that have placed the well-being of Gates County citizens far above their own.
On Sept. 6, current-day members of Gates County Rescue & EMS opened the doors of Station 80, rolled out the red carpet and welcomed the public to join them in celebrating a milestone – 50 years of service.
And on this day of celebration, two of the organization’s founding fathers were recognized for taking a leap of faith a half-century ago….joining others in serving the county’s citizens and visitors.
Frank Russell and Durwood Evans, the latter who twice served as Squad Captain for a total of 21 years, were each awarded a 50-year service pin by the North Carolina Association of Rescue & EMS.
“There’s a lot of history to learn about our organization if you want to sit and chat with Frank and Durwood,” said current-day Squad Chief Stormy Butts. “They helped to start our squad in 1964.”
Gordon Joyner, Executive Director of the state association, was on hand to present the two men with their 50-year pins.
“These guys are part of an elite group; they saw the need for rescue and EMS within this community,” said Joyner. “They stepped forward and made many sacrifices so you guys, the people of this community, could benefit from their talents. On behalf of the Association – which represents 30,000 members
and 650 departments – we appreciate the service you have given to the state and to Gates County.”
Evans said Gates County Rescue & EMS became a needed organization over 50 years ago when a group of local men attempted, without success, to locate a trapper missing in a swampy area near Eure.
“We looked for that man for three days without success,” Evans recalled. “We called in the National Guard and they found him. After that, the Sheriff at that time got in touch with me and asked if I thought we could start up a rescue squad. A meeting soon took place at the courthouse. Everybody was enthused, until we got to talking about how much it would cost (to start-up), and how much time we would have to invest.”
Still, the original group numbered 70 strong.
“Our training back then was very basis….American Red Cross First Aid training,” Evans said.
Evans said he can recall operating the rescue squad on a budget of $100 for two entire months.
“I’ve enjoyed being on the rescue squad,” Evans continued. “A lot of those trophies (pointing to a large display case in the squad room), I helped train the groups that competed for them.”
Evans noted that hands-on training found at statewide competitions was a great learning tool.
“You can knuckle down and learn a lot (in those competitions),” he said.
Evans also praised a decision made by Gates County Rescue & EMS to start a Juniors program, open to ages 13-18. They are highly trained and highly skilled to handle most all types of emergencies. Even though their “hands-on” involvement is limited by statewide regulations while answering a real-life scenario, the knowledge they absorb by observing an adult Rescue Squad member during a call is immeasurable.
“I would stack up our Juniors program against any in the state,” Evans said. “Four of them are now serving as Emergency Management directors. Others went into nursing and other medical fields.”
Russell recalled the early days of going door-to-door to solicit operating funds.
“We also shot a lot of turkeys,” he laughed, referencing the many nights that the squad hosted fund-raising turkey shoots. “It was a lot of hard work, but the people were dedicated and wanted to make our squad the best it could be.”
Until the organization of the Rescue Squad, all medical emergencies were transported by local funeral coaches.
The old Station 80 was constructed in 1964 at its present-day site (Eason’s Crossroads).The right and left bays were later added in 1972.
The new Station 80 contains a comfortable day room and two bedrooms upstairs. Downstairs has business offices, a full service kitchen, men’s and women’s restroom’s that include showers, a large meeting/training room and a large heated bay capable of parking up to six full size vehicles.
“Thanks to all of ya’ll for what you’ve done to keep our Rescue Squad open; it makes all our hard work good for something,” Evans closed.
“Our founding fathers were a group of men that saw a need and took action,” said Butts. “In those days there were no EMT’s or even public safety programs, however as the country grew, emergency medicine and rescue developed certifications that were implemented and then required. As these things happened the volunteers of the time were required to dedicate more time to complete education and state testing to obtain the required certifications in order to continue providing the service they providing to the community.”
Today, Gates County Rescue & EMS is rated as Paramedic level.
“Leading this important change to our level of care has taken the work of many current and past members and outside support from the College of the Albemarle and other community colleges in the region,” Butts said. “This was an ongoing project lasting just over two years and the upgrade means access to advanced interventions, lifesaving procedures and medications that were not previously available and are often critical to those in need in OUR rural community where transport times are often 35 minutes or more to an area hospital or what we call definitive care.
“As the Chief Officer of Gates County Rescue & EMS, I see a very dedicated group of professionals serving day in and day out and I would like to say thank you and congratulations to you all on what is our biggest achievement to date and a much needed change. To each and every person who played a part in this change and to everyone who provides support to our ongoing service, we all say thank you.”
Thanks to a strong foundation built 50 years ago, Gates County Rescue & EMS appears poised to last another 50 years and beyond.