SUN CITY CENTER – Volunteerism and cash donations are down in the community, and the nonprofit agencies providing the most help are hurting because of it.
Organizations like the SCC Emergency Squad, Samaritan Services and the Security Patrol rely on volunteers to keep their doors open. They offer free medical- and safety-related services to area residents and, when needed, save them thousands of dollars annually – and sometimes their lives.
The Sun City Center Emergency Squad, 720 Ray Watson Drive, depends solely on donations to maintain its four ambulances and two transport vans and volunteers staff three shifts daily to cover emergency calls and non-ambulatory transportation to local medical facilities. The squad offers blood pressure checks and equipment loans of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and canes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All services are free for Sun City Center residents.
It costs the squad $485,000 annually to maintain its equipment and facility; however community donations and its annual fundraiser brought in only $432,000 last year.
“We also pay $1,500 for the EMT course given at Hillsborough Community College for anyone interested in serving on our team,” said Dennis Floto, emergency squad chief. “We are scrambling for ideas on how to increase our income so we can keep our doors open to service the community.”
The squad’s eight all-volunteer teams normally work one eight-hour shift every eight days.
Ideally, each team has 24 volunteers per shift, which is made up of a team captain, emergency medical technicians, emergency medical responders and emergency medical responder drivers. Each shift also requires blood pressure technicians, dispatchers, shift coordinators, front office personnel, cooks, vehicle and equipment maintenance crews and administrative support.
Currently there aren’t enough volunteers to fill the squad’s needs.
Fully staffed, the teams alone would require 576 active volunteers – not including support personnel – to cover all three shifts. During summer months there are 300 active volunteers, with 10 to 25 leaving for vacation at various times. When snowbirds return in the fall, the total goes to 350, still 226 short of the staffing number needed to optimally staff the squad. So to accommodate current demand for services, the squad’s 300 volunteers are working double shifts two to three times a month.
“It’s a privilege to work with these people,” Floto said. “We all do what we need to in order to keep the service running but we need more volunteers to fulfill the community’s needs.”
For information on volunteering, call (813) 633-1411 or email [email protected]
SCC Rides – a part of Samaritan Services, 916 N. Pebble Beach Blvd. – provided free, weekday transportation for 7,476 area residents to local doctors, grocery stores, social events and other destinations in 2013. Samaritan’s out-of-town drivers transported 1,092 residents to Brandon, Tampa and Bradenton medical facilities last year. These trips were all accomplished with two in-town cars and six out-of-town cars.
The organization needs 160 active drivers, 40 part-time receptionists and 20 dispatchers to fully meet monthly demand. There are approximately 100 active volunteers during summer months. In the fall that number increases slightly.
“Due to a shortage of volunteers, many work two to three times a month,” said Doris Ragland, Samaritan Services board president. “We are fortunate to have people that believe in (the value of) our services to the community.”
Last year, the organization’s expenses were $120,000. Through Samaritan’s annual fundraiser and community donations, $133,000 was raised. The surplus will help pay for a sorely needed new building under construction near the Community Association. Currently SCC Rides, Meals on Wheels and Alzheimer’s Services are coordinated out of a 700-square foot facility.
For information on opportunities to volunteer, call (813) 634-9283.
Sun City Center Security Patrol is a nonprofit organization that helps to provide visibility within the community as a deterrent to crime. The patrol works closely with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department and immediately reports any suspicious activity.
The patrol’s fleet of five radio-equipped cars patrols Sun City Center streets during three shifts seven day a week. Each team of three to four volunteers is asked to work one alternating shift a month. Three dispatchers work five to six hours per month and one captain coordinates all the shifts each day.
A third of the patrol’s 916 current volunteers are snowbirds and another third are on vacation during the summer, so the patrol is often short-staffed. The captains are responsible for keeping cars on the road and often find themselves calling active volunteers to patrol an extra shift or two.
“With younger people moving into Sun City Center, it seems they want to enjoy their retirement and play,” said Bob Powers, security patrol chief. “Hopefully, they’ll come to understand that a large part of our community runs with the help of volunteers.”
The patrol collected $65,000 in donations last year, which was $95,000 short of its $160,000 in annual expenses. The difference was covered by surplus from previous years. Powers said that if donations don’t increase and the squad has to keep supplementing from its reserves, within 10 years it will run out of money and no longer be able to service Sun City Center.
For more information on the SCC Security Patrol and opportunities to volunteer, call (813) 642-2020 or visit www.sccpatrol.org
Dosi Loverro is a freelance writer who can be reached at [email protected]