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.