Give Blood in Honor of Rutherford Volunteer First-Aid Ambulance Corps
Submitted by Kathleen Mathieu
The Rutherford Volunteer First-Aid Ambulance Corps will be honored on April 4, 2022, at the annual spring drive of Rutherford Community Blood Bank. The drive will be held at 55 Kip Center in Rutherford from 1 to 8 PM.
The all-volunteer ambulance corps will be recognized for its signature dedication to providing emergency medical services, often at a time when life-saving assistance is crucial. Founded in 1949 to address a growing need for emergency services as local hospitals eliminated their ambulances, nothing has exemplified its enduring and unique commitment better than its remarkable work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The blood bank feels a special kinship with the ambulance corps,” said Carol Hsu, Blood Bank chairperson. In 1957, ambulance corps leadership sent out the call for the community to form an organization that would ensure a proper blood supply for Rutherford residents. Both groups have experienced significant operational changes and broadened missions, but their abiding devotion to their hometown continues.
The group logged 1,112 calls in 2021, and 1,035 in 2020, which included the beginning of the pandemic. While most people hunkered down as best they could, the ambulance corps did not have the luxury of time. Urgent matters included the sudden need for specialized personal protective equipment and training for pandemic conditions. The undaunted squad steadfastly rose to the occasion with skill and conviction. “It’s what we volunteered for,” said the group’s captain, Mike Tarantino, a 50-year corps veteran, whose parents and grandparents were members, as is his daughter Jennifer today.
Mike is proud of his colleagues, whose riding members complete 250 hours of training in addition to recertification every three years. Each serve a minimum of 30 hours a month and 12 weekend hours. The group works closely with the police and fire departments, he said. “We are a great team.”
Blood bank corresponding secretary Peggy Letsche, a borough resident since 1964, can surely speak for her family, friends, and neighbors when she describes her deeply held appreciation for the corps. “They have always been there for us,” said Peggy. Many incidents over the years have included her father’s two heart attacks, her brother’s burst appendix, her infant brother’s convulsions, and various injuries, including bloody cuts in need of attention. Most recently, their caring and compassion were extended to Peggy’s 97-year-old mother, who needed its services twice in her final months during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
Joan Tidona, the Blood Bank Director who nominated the corps to be April’s honoree, remembers quite distinctly one emergency medical technician (EMT) who was on duty one of the times her special needs sister Geraldine required help. “Sensing how terrified she was -we all were- he changed her demeanor to smiles and giggles by joking that she should think of herself as a princess who was waving to her subjects while being carried on her throne. It was as though he recognized the princess she truly was.” said Joan. “We cannot exaggerate how much we all need this remarkable group.” All 56 riding members are certified EMTs. Twenty-four other volunteers back them through administrative work and fundraising, the financial lifeline of the group.
Although meeting expenses is always challenging, the corps receives contributions from Rutherford residents and organizations. Most people do not know that the corps operates almost entirely on these donations. The group was particularly hard hit by unprecedented expenses resulting from the pandemic, said Carmen Addeo, the group’s president. “We are so grateful to the people of Rutherford,” said Carmen. “Without their financial support, we simply could not continue to provide services.”
Advance registration to donate blood is strongly advised. Visit vitalant.org or
call (877) 25 VITAL today.