Rescue service in need of funds

June 10, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT - Ask any emergency medical care provider in Washington County what the toughest part of the job is and most will say it's raising the money necessary to continue providing that care.

No one knows that better than the personnel at the Williamsport Volunteer Ambulance Service, who recently put in hundreds of hours planning a May 23 benefit concert at the Maryland Theatre featuring Funny Money, with lead singer Steve Whiteman formerly of KIX, and Doug "Greaseman" Tracht.

"We raised about $4,000," said Scott Frey, president of the company, which has outgrown its quarters at 30 W. Salisbury St. "We desperately need a new hall - everything is growing except the hall."


In 2002, Williamsport Ambulance personnel ran a total of 1,690 calls - ambulance, squad and boat. Of those, 1,523 were medic calls, according to figures provided by Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications.

Some of the bigger categories were 291 personal-injury accidents, 198 calls for trouble breathing, 153 calls for people experiencing chest pains, 134 incidents of falls and 97 medical emergencies in which crew members didn't know what they were dealing with until they got there.

The building is packed with equipment, leaving little room to walk between vehicles. Add to that the annual increase in the number of calls and the high cost of everything needed to stay viable and the crisis becomes apparent, Frey said.

Escalating costs are a constant problem as are increased demands for training for both career and volunteer personnel. Williamsport Volunteer Ambulance Service has two full-time and eight part-time medical providers who coordinate with a core of highly-trained volunteers.

"And after July 1, we will have to start paying for the drugs we use on our runs," said Chief Brian Lowman. Before, those drugs were replenished by Washington County Hospital.

Four years ago, the company purchased nearly 3 acres along U.S. 11 adjacent to the McDonald's restaurant and just inside Williamsport town limits. Ever since, members have been trying to raise the money necessary to build on the site.

"We're looking for grants but we can't get in on the Federal Emergency Management Agency funds because they are just for fire companies," Frey said.

Alan Butsch, a Williamsport paramedic and career supervisor, said the Maryland State Firemen's Association has several grant opportunities but they are all maxed out.

"Every year, we have a direct mail fund-raiser in the fall which provides about 10 percent of the money necessary to run this company," Butsch said.

Steve Hobson, career administrator, said only about 20 percent of the commercial/industrial firms and 24 percent of the residences contribute money during the fund drive.

Add to that the annual allotment provided by the Washington County Commissioners; about $8,000 through the state of Maryland; another $7,000 from the town of Williamsport; occasional fund-raisers like the concert; and memorials from wills and private citizens.

"Our auxiliary also does a lot of food events that bring in money," Butsch said.

Williamsport Ambulance doesn't do bingo and doesn't have a carnival, Frey said.

Creative fund-raising is key, Lowman said. To that end, Erin Carpenter was appointed chair of the fund-raising committee a year ago and she and her members have been busy.

"It can be a headache, but you delegate to others so we are all doing it," Carpenter said.

The Greaseman concert last year and this year were successes but another show on Labor Day weekend was plagued with rain - a chance you take with any type of event, she said.

What keeps the wheels turning is that nearly 50 percent of the company's funds are derived from insurance company reimbursements, Butsch said.

When an ambulance rolls on a call, the ambulance company bills for its services. If the clients are subscribers, they get a statement instead of a bill.

Annual subscription costs are $40 for a family, $25 for a senior citizen couple or family, $20 for an individual and $15 for a senior citizen individual.

"If they subscribe, what the insurance company doesn't pay, we forgive," Lowman said.

Anyone seeking information on the Williamsport Volunteer Ambulance Service can call 301-223-8532 or mail contributions to 30 W. Salisbury St., P.O. Box 102, Williamsport, MD 21795-0102.

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