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Emergency squad to celebrate the ‘Big 5-0’

By Lois Kindle
Published: September 3, 2014 Updated: September 4, 2014 at 09:00 AM
The all-volunteer Sun City Center Emergency Squad will celebrate 50 years of serving the community in October. Celebrations and a big fundraiser are planned.

SUN CITY CENTER – Sun City Center celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. Now it’s the SCC Emergency Squad’s turn.

The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization was founded just three years after Del Webb started the retirement community, when a group of 14 new residents saw the need for a team of local first-aiders trained by the Red Cross.

Since its inception the squad has grown from 20 volunteers to about 400 in the winter and 260 during the summer. Its first ambulance was a hearse – donated from Lewers Funeral Home in Ruskin.

“At that time the state required that a mortician ride along on every call,” said Jan Huber, board members and volunteer emergency medical technician and board member. “Then the law was changed to require a two-man, crew on a 24-hour basis. The morticians decided they couldn’t meet the requirement and discontinued participating in the ambulance service.”

Twenty-one chiefs have led the squad, including its first, Ray Watson, and its latest, Dennis Floto. Until recently squad members selected new chiefs every two years, but a new board elected in March and chaired by Eileen Peco changed the by-laws and transferred that responsibility to itself.

Today’s emergency squad has four fully equipped ambulances, two wheelchair vans, a renovated and enlarged station house with a commercial kitchen and the separate training center. It provides free ambulance transport; non-emergency van transportation for non-ambulatory patients to medical facilities; loaner wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and canes; vials of life; blood pressure checks; key locator service; and trip-and-fall prevention education.

Ideally eight teams of 30 to 50 volunteers cover 24 hours once every eight days, but when there is a shortage of manpower frequency sometimes increases. Each team is filled with emergency medical technicians, emergency medical responders and ambulance drivers; dispatchers, administrative coordinators and front desk receptionists; cooks, van drivers; captains and assistant captains. They work six-, eight- or 12-hour shifts, depending on their team, role and/or availability. Some even work full-time jobs in addition to their volunteer efforts, said Robin Watt, EMT and assistant chief of communications.

Training for all positions is provided at no cost by the squad, except for EMTs unless they are already state-certified. They are required to take a four-and-a-half month course at Hillsborough Community College. The cost of the course is covered by the squad for those who has volunteered for it at least one year.

Throughout October, the squad will celebrate its golden anniversary with four events:

• Saturday, Oct. 4, 11 a.m. – All You Ever Wanted to Know about Hospice, Emergency Squad Training Building, 124 S. Pebble Beach Blvd. Coffee and cookies will be served.

• Thursday, Oct. 9, 1 to 4 p.m. – Men’s Club Ice Cream Social, Community Hall, 1910 S. Pebble Beach Blvd. Free to area residents.

• Sunday, Oct. 19, 5:30 to 10 p.m. – ‘50s and ‘60s Dance (fundraiser), Kings Point Borini Theatre, 1900 Clubhouse Lane. Tickets are $10 and will go on sale Sept. 22 at the Kings Point Box Office. The event will include live music by Del and Gary. BYOB.

• Friday, Oct. 31, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Community Picnic, in front of front of the North Clubhouse at Kings Point, 1900 Clubhouse Drive. Event includes music by pop, jazz and oldies vocalist Sandy Nitch.

All are being held to thank area residents for their continued donations, which, in addition to grants, are the squad’s sole source of operating capital.

“We so fully appreciate the 50 years of support this community has provided,” Watt said. “We wouldn’t be here without it, and with its continued help we’re planning to be here another 50.”

The Sun City Center Emergency Squad 50th Anniversary Journal will be distributed to area residents attending these events. Anyone wanting to thank the squad for its 50-year mission 50 years of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” can purchase space in the journal by calling former Chief Noreen Schramm at (917) 239-3903.

For further information on the emergency squad or to make a donation, call or call (813) 634-1411.

[email protected]

(813) 731-8138