VERO BEACH – The Indian River County Volunteer Ambulance Squad is celebrating 45 years of service by launching its annual fund-raising campaign with a goal of $100,000. The Squad mails letters once a year asking for donations from the community. The Volunteer Ambulance Squad is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization established in 1966. The Squad consists of one paid employee and 60 volunteers who provide free non-emergency transportation to doctor appointments, kidney dialysis, cancer treatments and other medical appointments.
The door-to-door service is available to anyone in the county simply by calling in advance and making a reservation. Passengers may be ambulatory or in a wheelchair. The Squad does not transport emergency cases.
While the focus of the Squad is medical transportation for those in need, the Squad also provides a meaningful volunteer opportunity for many individuals. This is often an example of seniors helping seniors since most of the Squad volunteers are retirees and many passengers are elderly.
Charlie Simard, a 12-year veteran with the Squad, transports passengers in a wheelchair van. “Wheelchair passengers have an especially difficult time finding transportation, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping them get to medical appointments,” said Simard. “I meet lots of interesting people, and the camaraderie at the Squad makes you feel as if you are part of a family.”
Don Porrett has been a Squad volunteer driver for five years. “I was a firefighter in Detroit for 38 years and retired as Senior Battalion Chief,” said Porrett. “Helping people in need is second nature to me, and I feel really good when I go home after a day of driving for the Squad.”
In 2010, drivers made 13,000 trips and logged 130,000 miles in the Squad’s nine vehicles, a 25 percent increase compared to 2009. There is no charge for this service, although donations are accepted from passengers on a voluntary basis. However, donations do not begin to cover the Squad’s expenses, which also rose 25 percent in 2010. Money for gasoline, insurance, maintenance and other needs is provided through donations from passengers and members of the community.
In addition to regular expenses, a new vehicle must be purchased periodically to replace an aging one. No money is received from the United Way, county, state or any other government agencies. Because the Squad operates totally on donations, there is no cost to taxpayers. Transportation is provided for non-emergency cases only. Anyone with an emergency situation should call 911.
Tax-deductible donations may be mailed to Indian River County Volunteer Ambulance Squad, P.O. Box 2240, Vero Beach, FL 32961.
For more information, to make a reservation for transportation to a medical appointment, or to learn about volunteer opportunities, call April Hargett at 231-1230 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.