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Ortley Beach First Aid Squad Faces Closure, Asks Citizenry For Help

First aiders seeking volunteers in order to continue Ortley Beach squad's operation

The Ortley Beach First Aid Squad, an active arm of the Toms River volunteer service community for more than four decades, is now on the brink of closing — and is asking citizens for any and all assistance to prevent that shutdown from taking place.

“The Ortley Beach First Aid Squad will soon be required to cease operations. Our dire situation is based on a lack of volunteers, and therefore we can no longer cover our duty calls,” said squad member and treasurer Phyllis Finelli.

Finelli said that at the moment only two volunteers are “riding” members of the squad, manning the ambulance.

“We’ve been open since 1969, and have been an important part of the community, especially in the summertime. We are asking the local residents and surrounding communities to please help us save our squad and building, by volunteering your time and experience. Many other local volunteer squads are dealing with the same issues,” Finelli added.

Finelli said that prospective volunteers need not be residents of strictly Ortley Beach or Toms River, and asked all citizens to keep in mind that if the squad is forced to close, it will be gone for good — in addition to the fact that the organization’s headquarters building has long been a hub for local events.

“The officers and members of the squad have always treated the building as a type of community center; scheduling meetings, graduation parties, birthdays, weddings, etc.,” Finelli said.

“The donations from these local events, along with your generous donations, have helped defray our operating costs. For this reason, whenever we are called to an emergency, there is never a charge to the patient,” Finelli said.

Finelli mentioned that the squad’s officers have met with the Township of Toms River, and that their status will be reviewed in May.

“We have a limited amount of time to increase our volunteers and continue to serve our community,” Finelli stated. “We want to keep what we have. A dedicated volunteer is a dedicated volunteer.”

Toms River Township Administrator Paul Shives said that the township wrote a letter to the Ortley Beach First Aid Squad late last year, and met with members personally about two months ago.

“In 2011, less than 10 percent of the first aid calls in Ortley Beach were answered,” Shives said. “We can’t fund a squad without volunteers.”

Shives wanted to note, however, that the township is keeping an open mind and did “leave the door open” at that time, saying that if volunteer membership in Ortley Beach increased, it would continue to fund the squad.

“We understand that it’s more difficult today to get volunteers, and there are fewer individuals capable of putting the time in. This is not adversarial toward the squad, but our primary focus is that the people who need an ambulance can get one quickly,” Shives said.

The administrator explained that in addition to volunteers, Toms River Township supplements its emergency response services with a full-time program of community service officers — who answered over 6,000 calls in 2011 — and who may need to be activated as first responders in Ortley, according to Shives.   

“Of course, the number of calls in Ortley Beach goes up in the summertime, and we’re looking to station an ambulance over there, though that has not been finalized,” Shives commented.

The Ortley Beach First Aid Squad asks that anyone who is willing to volunteer or be of assistance to please call 732-854-2468.

Chris March 27, 2012 at 02:37 PM
And isn't this the same agency that tried to scam their way around the township to get new engines for their boat? Where did that boat go, since they never really had the money to pay the mechanics to put the new motors on it? This is an agency that TAKES from it's comminuty, clearly doesn't GIVE BACK any longer. I am sorry to say it, but if our unemployment is at a risky high, I can't see funding a HOBBY for TWO people who don't actually give anything back for all of the money they are taking in. Lets get some more information about the funds that are provided to them, and the amount of service they really provide for those funds. It is silly to just say, PAD YOUR ROSTER AND GET $$$
1stcav March 27, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Those in Ortley Beach it's time to hear from you NOW , if in fact Chris is right , then speak up if this IS a scam or self proclaimed need by just a few for a Hobby...as stated.We are taxed enough but I will support a good cause any day .For or against ???? lets here from you as the summer IS right around the corner !
KingNeptune March 27, 2012 at 04:30 PM
In this day and age, the public expects a professional emergency medical service, not 2 volunteers that may or may not be there in our hour of need. The era of volunteer first aid squads are over.
morningcoffee March 27, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I was an active member there for many years in the 1990's. We were a very active squad, answering plenty of calls, and often covering neighboring areas. We covered 24/7/365 in all sorts of weather... caring for all different types. In my opinion, I think that Ortley is comprised mostly of retirees who aren't looking to become members. I'd love to still be a member there, but my response time is going to be too long, due to the fact that I am on the other side of the bridge now. I gave my heart and soul as a volunteer, and it was very rewarding. It's just a shame that no one is there anymore that is willing and/or capable of helping out. Don't go automatically assuming that the equipment is used for pleasure. Volunteers aren't just in it for the "benefits." That's not just an excuse... some people honestly want to give back to society.
Missjennyfer March 27, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I disagree Mr. Common sense. Volunteer squads are very hard working individuals who are properly trained licensed and certified. I happen to know many volunteer first responders and emt's who are great at what they do and are reliable to show at each and every call. Just because they are volunteers does not mean that they are not "professional". As previously stated, they are licensed and state certified emt's.
1stcav March 27, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Not for anything but volunteers saved ( made ) this Country in 1776..And on to today 2012, didn't Mr Michael Jackson have a Doctor in HIS house, a professional in his hour of need, and we all know how that turned out...don't throw the baby out with the dirty bath water...just say'in
KingNeptune March 27, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Didn't say they weren't qualified. But will they be there for you when you need them. Maybe, maybe not depending on the time of day or what the volunteers may be doing in their own lives at that particular time. Professionals are on duty 24/7.
morningcoffee March 27, 2012 at 06:00 PM
MrCommonSense, Sometimes you don't HAVE any common sense. When I was on the squad, I gave 110%... getting up at 3am or 7pm... whenever the call came in. I take offense to the fact that you think we would put our own lives before someone in need of help. I hope you don't live in TR, because ALL of the firemen are volunteers. Let's hope they don't have something going on if God for bid you ever need them. So you don't think THEY are professional???? I understand free speech and all, but be sensible. Just because volunteers don't get a paycheck doesn't subtract anything from their professionalism.
Chris March 27, 2012 at 07:13 PM
SOME are professionally certified or licensed, not all. But it still doesn't justify spending that much money on an agency of two people who are not there when they are needed. It's a no show job. Taxation without representation, if you will. They take your tax dollars, give it to the squad, and not only do they not show up, they only have two people. These are two people who can easily merge into the rolls of another volunteer squad in town, and continue to serve the community which they live in, and save the township $35,000 a year plus vehicle costs. Those ambulances that are dry-rotting must cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars. I'm not criticizing the work of the volunteers, I am criticizing the silliness of maintaining the funding out an agency that no longer produces a service. You can't even say that you get what you pay for, since we are paying a lot and getting nothing. When I call 911, I want to know that there is an ambulance staffed and ready to respond when I need them, not when those two people happen to be available.
Missjennyfer March 28, 2012 at 02:26 AM
The problem with Ortley is that if you get rid of the squad you have no first responders on the island for the people of Ortley..Seaside has their people, Lavallette has their people but Ortley is part of Toms River. Do you know that the response time of Toms River Fire or Police is in the summer months because they come from the main land most of the time? I have seen it take upwards of 20 minutes for responses from the PAID, ON DUTY FULL TIME employees of Toms River to respond to the people on the island. The people on the island who pay Triple the taxes of the people on the mainland receive delayed services. I know of a woman who was bleeding so badly on the island in Toms River that she went into shock because the officer on duty was over the bridge and then the bridge was up so when he showed up almost 15 minutes had passed. Then it took the ambulance another 10 minutes to get there because the Dover-Brick squad had its only two ambulances on the beach. It would be in the best interest of Toms River to maybe staff the Ortley Beach first aid squad and not close it down. Further, my father is an emt with one of the volunteer squads on the island...He is on call on certain days and certain times. Neither him nor the other people on call with him miss their calls. They don't show when they feel like it, they show when they are called. Maybe it is a matter of politics or management which is causing the Ortley Beach first aid squad to have issues.
Missjennyfer March 28, 2012 at 02:36 AM
There are no other volunteer squads in Ortley Beach. You have the Dover/Brick squad which only has 2 ambulances in the summer and then you have mainland toms river squads which have such poor response times, especially in the summer. If you were having a heart attack or bleeding or whatever, You would be dead before they ever got to you.
Chris March 28, 2012 at 10:41 AM
MissJennyfer, please key me know what time your dad is answering calls, so that I know when to schedule my illness or injury. Perhaps the right answer is to staff the squad building with the PAID, ON DUTY FULL TIME EMPLOYEES, as you have mentioned. At least there would be an ambulance staffed at all times, instead of part time. And you mentioned the response times of the mainland; I agree with you, but that is why the town hired the full time people, so there would always be some to answer your call. Let's be honest here, For Sale signs are on the rise in front of residencies, Otley Beach is a summer community, and the taxes are greater in Ortley; so with that said, where do you expect to draw members from? L-town? Seaside? They have their own taxpayers to care for. Our perhaps the mainland; you just complained about the response from emergency personnel who use lights and sirens, how do you think the response will be in a personal car?
Chris March 28, 2012 at 10:41 AM
I am not against a volunteer device that works efficiently, but you have to face the facts folks, there just isn't anyone to join the squad and staff the rida full time, or else they would have already joined. And to say that some college kids may show up for summer membership, doesn't solve the problem for the spring, fall, or winter. Nobody wants to see our volunteers fail, but the times have changed and people need to work two jobs to adopted their life style, or go to soccer practice for the kids, or do homework, or anything else that takes away from the commitment that our community believes these agencies provide. Let's start moving towards better staffing for the island. As you omentioned, the police and ems, both of which have paid on duty personnel, should have additional staffing if they can't take care of our island. As for the fire response that you mentioned, thats a whole other story.
realfacts March 28, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Who has time to be a volunteer anymore, maybe if young people didn't have to work an enormous amount of hours to pay for all these corrupt politicians, crazy taxes, Low wages, there would be some willing.this is only the beginning of the end.did you know that 30 people a day go to dover township police dept to apply for handgun permits, get read folks
Project Bluebeam March 28, 2012 at 01:01 PM
On the contrary, with unemployment this high there should be plenty of younger Americans with the free time to volunteer. The problem is finding one who is willing to put down the XBox controller long enough to do some good for their community.
SB Girl March 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I think the answer to this issue is to consolidate the services on the island...all these imaginary lines of responsibility make no sense in an area that is barely 15 square miles...perhaps then you would get sufficient staffing...although I agree that most people these days do not have the volunteer spirit... In which case Toms River needs to step up to the plate an provide YEAR-ROUND AMBULANCES on the island, since the majority of the YEAR-ROUND TAXPAYERS are SENIOR CITIZENS who require more immediate emergency service.
Chris March 28, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Project and SB, I couldn't agree more. That seems to be the best way to state my point for those who do have the free time, "most people these days do not have the volunteer spirit." It's the "I-Generation", what do I-Get. It is sad to admit, but facts are facts.
Chris March 28, 2012 at 02:45 PM
And a consolidation would be fantastic, but then you would have to fight the politicians about dividing the tax money; and we know how way that is, right...
Pat S. March 28, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Considering the taxes we pay to Toms River, and the lack of services we get here in Ortley for those taxes, I would hope the powers-that-be would come up with a better solution than to just close down the First Aid Squad leaving us at the mercy of whom- Lavallette, Seaside?? Why should they respond to people who are part of a township which has emergency services on the mainland, but neglects its stepchild barrier island residents?!? I guess "out of sight, out of mind".
Thomas A. Mathis March 28, 2012 at 03:57 PM
There are certainly many factors to consider with the problem at the Ortley Beach FA. However, I have not seen any mention of the high level of training required to maintain an individual's ability to be on a first aid squad. It has become somewhat more intense than the old "Load them up and get to the hosital" first aid service. Thus with the much higher time involved to be a volunteer you will get less people who will offer to actually be a volunteer. A similar statement can be made about the fire service too. Our world becomes complicated with progress.....and liability laws.
Chris March 28, 2012 at 05:42 PM
What high level of training? A CPR card and 120 hours of training for a certification that you recertify every 5 years? That sounds very difficult to achieve...
Jenny March 28, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Hey Chris, you say its not so difficult...you complain about others not volunteering their time...what are YOU doing? Are you certified or registered to attend a course to become certified??? Have YOU called the Ortley Beach First Aid Squad to offer your time?...Just curious.
Chris March 28, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Unfortunately, like everyone else, I don't have the time. I need to be able to provide for myself and my own stability before I can help others. I don't state this as a selfish remark, but an unfortunate sign of the times.
Thomas A. Mathis March 29, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Let me see if I got this right....you are loaded with quite a bit of repeat advice for how easy it is to pass the required training and run a first aid squad but when it comes to actually applying any of the advice to getting the job done it is too much for you. Credibility is not your strong point, is it?
Chris March 29, 2012 at 02:02 AM
My credibility had been judged by many more qualified than you Thomas, and yet my stance is always on point in the end. Figures don't lie, liars figure. Let's see the figures of how many calls for service were in Ortley Beach, and how many they actually answered. And also break down the financial budget, and figure out how much money the are receiving related to how many calls they answered. Once you discover the numbers, you will see that I led you down the right path. I can't wait to read your report.
Volunteer EMT March 29, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Chris, Actually there is a little bit more to it. You were correct that the Emergency Medical Technician program used to be 120 hours, however it has recently be increased to 240 hours. And you are also correct that currently it is a 5 year certification, however it will soon be reduced back to 3 years. In those 3 years we are expected to attend Continuing Education Courses, which we have to pay out of our own pockets.
John V March 30, 2012 at 07:43 PM
More money being thrown down the hole by Fire District #1. When will you people wake up???
Ortley320 April 02, 2012 at 01:30 AM
I was also a member of OBFAS for a very long time.. A little history.. 4 years ago this squad had approx. 26 members and was covering approx 70% of the first aid calls in Ortley Beach - winter and summer...what happened? Volunteer First Aiders go through alot of schooling and training to maintain a license hard work, so for this squad to go through this change in a few years? This squad is a victim of arrogance and Toxic leadership - 26 members to 2? If no one is willing to follow the current leadership there becomes a big problem. Volunteers put there time and lives on the line everytime that rig roles. These few people have obviously forgotten they are there to support the public and not themselves. Shame on them! They have destroyed what used to be a fun and motivated public service organization.
Jersey Shore Boy May 05, 2012 at 03:15 AM
New leadership might have helped. Simply putting up some letters on the first aid station marquis asking for volunteers isn't effective. The organization did not even have a website. What a shame. Don't blame the lack of volunteers trend on the community. Responsibility rests squarely with the squad board and officers for benign neglect. In my opinion, lack of effort and incompetence is the cause for the demise of the volunteer squad. What a shame. What did they do to rescue the squad when the township gave them one last chance? The answer is nothing. The Patch article was too little too late. I wonder how many people approached the squad to volunteer, but were ignored? The board and officers dropped the ball - time and time again. What a shame. Why didn't the township leaders demand that the board step down and replace the officers? If you don't have success with one management team, you replace it. If you are failing and don't replace the management team, how can you expect any change in results? Not for nothing, why wasn't a news release sent to every media outlet in the region - not just the local weekly shopper - but radio stations and daily newspapers, too?
erin oconnell lunsford November 01, 2012 at 05:45 AM
I was an active member for OBFAS from 2002 until I moved to California in 2009. I volunteered anywhere from 3 to 6 nights shifts while living in North Dover, sleeping their at night and teaching in the morning at Barnegat High. I don't know what happened in the 3 years I have been gone, but it use to be a large squad that was a family that took care of its community.

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