Our History

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Contents

History of Washington Township Ambulance and Rescue Association

In the Beginning

In the fall of 1956 a small group of men met at the residence of Russ LaRosa on Ledden Lane to discuss the need for a volunteer ambulance association to serve the community of Washington Township. The Williamstown and Glendora Squads served our community, but often there were unavoidable delays in service. We appreciated their efforts in serving our needs, but it was time to establish our own emergency ambulance squad.

On October 10, 1956 a charter was granted to the Washington Township Ambulance Association.

The Charter members were:

  • Ben Diaz
  • William Moore
  • James Diaz
  • Russell Price
  • Jules Rios
  • Andrew Kakas
  • Ernie Kakas
  • Steve Kakas
  • Paul Sergi
  • Joseph Sergi
  • Russ LaRosa

The first meeting was held in a room over a two car garage behind the residence of Catherine B. Lloyd and Paul and Mary Sergi, 1981 Black Horse Pike, Turnersville, NJ. The men elected Ben Diaz as their first President; Ernie Kakas, Vice-president; Andy Kakas, Secretary; Russ Price, Treasurer and Paul Sergi, Captain. It was here the men held their meetings, conducted first aid classes and discussed plans for the construction of a hall.

The First Vehicles

The first ambulance purchased was a 1948 Packard. The members financed the vehicle at a cost of $725.00. The squad colors were blue and white. The ambulance was housed at Sergi’s Esso station on the Black Horse Pike. Dispatching was handled by Sergi’s Esso station from 7:00AM to 6:30PM, seven days a week. Night calls were dispatched from the Sergi homestead adjacent to the service station. When a call was received it was relayed by telephone to the two squad members on duty. Two alternates backed up the first squad. After two years the dispatching was handled from the residence of Paul Sergi. That system remained in effect until 1960 when our Police Department occupied quarters in the newly completed ambulance hall. They then assumed the responsibility of dispatching the ambulance.

The First Building

The lot that the building was constructed was donated by Paul Sergi. Both he and Ernie Kakas bought small lots adjacent to each other. Paul had performed some work on Ernie’s car, so rather than paying in cash, Ernie transferred his lot to Paul who eventually donated both lots to us where our building is now located. The old boat house in Bell’s Lake was donated to the squad. The members tore it down and used the materials to construct the building. Construction of the ambulance hall commenced in 1958. It took two years of dedicated toil by this small group of volunteers to complete the building under the supervision of Walter White. Little by little their dreams were becoming a reality.

Our Colors

The Ambulance colors were originally blue and white. It was decided to change the colors to red and white when we purchased a used 1954 Cadillac ambulance. Our first NEW ambulance was purchased in 1964. The 1948 Packard was sold to a gunning club in Pennsylvania and later disappeared into obscurity.

We still own and operate the 1964 Pontiac.

First New Ambulance

In 1964 we finally arrived. We purchased a brand new ambulance!! It was a 1964 Pontiac brought through the Stratton Pontiac-AMC dealership in Hurffville. That vehicle is still around today and is used in parades and other public functions. That vehicle was followed by:

  1. 1967 Pontiac – later sold to Pedricktown Vol. Ambulance.
  2. 1970 Oldsmobile – sold to a private ambulance service in No. Jersey.
  3. 1972 Oldsmobile - later traded in on 1979 Ford
  4. 1973 Oldsmobile – later traded in on 1979 Ford.
  5. 1974 F350 Ford light rescue truck.
  6. 1976 Chevrolet Modular ambulance.
  7. (2) 1979 Ford Van ambulances
  8. Since then several Ford E350 and E450 Ford modular Diesel powered units.
  9. a 2004 Ford Excursion SUV is utilized for quick response and scene supervision
  10. a 2012 Ford Mobility Assistance Vehicle is available to meet the non-emergent needs of clients.
  11. Our most recent additions are a 2014 Ford/AEV Type III BLS ambulance, and a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria that is used by our Lieutenants to oversee operations. The car was provided by the police department after being de-commissioned.

Original Funding

Supplies were limited at first. Linens were supplied by members but soon local clubs donated much needed medical equipment. In order to properly finance this growing organization, they conducted their first door to door fund drive in the spring of 1957. That drive netted a whopping $173.00. In order to supplement the fund drive the members stood on the Black Horse Pike with a large bed sheet and a sign and solicited donations from the many motorists traveling to and from the shore points. As the years past the annual fund drive began to show some results. In 1960 they collected a total of $900.00. Over the years the volunteers continued their door to door until around 1974-1975. With the tremendous growth of the township, it became virtually impossible to knock on the door of every single home. The last year of this took almost nine months to complete. As a result the association utilized a mailing system which is still used today to solicit subscriptions.

Expansion

With the ever expansion of the township and growth of the population, a second division was needed across town. In 1968 a small lot was donated by the Sickler family of Hurffville. For the purpose of providing faster service to the residents a small garage type building was constructed on that site. Unfortunately, due to a manpower shortage, that operation was discontinued a few years later. The building was still used for storage purposes until it was sold in 1996.

Rescue Operations

In the early 70’s it was determined that there was a need for more training and equipment for rescue operations particularly vehicular entrapments. During this time the Township Civil Defense Dept had an old Chevrolet Van that contained some rudimentary tools and equipment for this purpose. However, it was very old and outdated. That equipment was turned over to the squad and the vehicle sold. Our Civil Director at the time (William Corcoran) began accumulating funds to purchase a “Hurst Rescue Tool”. This is a gasoline powered, hydraulic equipment with two alligator type jaws that exerted approximately 25,000 pounds of pressure on each arm when opening. It was specifically designed to rescue victims trapped in vehicles. We were the first squad in southern New Jersey to obtain one and only the second one in the entire state. Training was originally conducted by representatives of the Hurst Corporation and later by our own members. In 1974 we obtained a Ford F350 light rescue truck to carry this new equipment. The vehicle also contained a 12,500 KW generator to power emergency flood lights for night time rescues. Later came two small 12 foot aluminum boats and a trailer for water rescue and retrieval. The last acquisition came in the early 80’s when we purchased a heavier duty rescue truck. This was a custom designed by us and built in the mid-west. With the discontinuation of an all volunteer squad and commencement of a paid service, this operation was discontinued. The rescue operations and some of the necessary equipment were turned over the Washington Township Fire Commission. The vehicle itself was sold to the City of Millville.

Building Expansion

Also as a result of the growth and the need for more equipment, the main building had to undergo expansion as well. An addition was put on the south end to house the dispatcher and office. In 1966, this was later followed by a second addition on the north end in order to house the second ambulance yet to come. This was later followed by a storeroom, kitchen, and office in 1971 to make more room in the banquet area. Not to stand idle, the garage and utility area was added in 1976-1977 which now houses 4 of our 7 ambulances, as well as our antique,the 1964 Pontiac. Last but not least was the large two story addition on the south side and dedicated in 2007. That addition houses three ambulances, crew’s quarters, locker rooms and a small kitchen and lounge.

Staffing

Due to the rising population of the township and corresponding number of emergencies, it became very difficult to obtain an adequate number of volunteers to answer the calls especially during the day time hours when most volunteers were at work. In December 2001, coverage of emergency calls was handled by paid employees of Kennedy Health System during daytime hours, Monday through Friday. Volunteers continued to provide coverage during the evening and on weekends.

Change-over From Volunteer To Paid

Coverage by Kennedy Health System continued until May, 2004 when we made the biggest advance of our history. We converted from part volunteer/part paid to all paid using our own employees. They provide coverage 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Some of the paid employees were hired from the ranks of our volunteers. Some are still with us today. (Click on Personnel for a list of current employees) All employees are certified as Emergency Medical Technicians by the State of New Jersey and in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). They must maintain those certifications at all times by attending periodic training classes.

Until this point we depended on donations and our annual fund drive to provide funding to cover the costs for equipment and supplies. The township also provided a small portion for our benefit. Now that we were operating with a paid staff, we had to find a more stable source of income. That came in the form of billing Health Insurance carriers for our services. We also created a Subscription Program to supplement this. (Click on Subscribe On-Line for more information). As a result of this change we no longer receive any contribution from the township or receive any tax dollars whatsoever.

Since this was no longer a volunteer organization which is typically run by the volunteers, we needed a change in management and a Board of Directors was created shortly thereafter. They were charged with overall operation and decision making.

Conclusion

The Washington Township Ambulance and Rescue Association has had a long and successful history and we are proud to say that we are one of the busiest EMS agencies in South Jersey, and the only private EMS provider in Gloucester County.

Our 60th Anniversary motto is: "Proud of our Heritage....Committed to the Future..."

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