Scituate Ambulance and Rescue Corps celebrating 60 years

Scituate Ambulance and Rescue Corps celebrating 60 years

SCITUATE - Marybeth Ouellette can still remember her first call as a member of the Scituate Ambulance and Rescue Corps more than 40 years ago.

It was Feb. 8, 1971, a cold snowy night, when a motor vehicle accident at Route 101 and Elmdale Road left two elderly women dead.

Asked what effect the tragic accident had on her, Ouellette, current president of the SARCO board of directors, replied without hesitation: "It made me solid."

"It made me realize that I was capable of doing what I was setting out to do," she added, explaining that what she set out to do so many years ago was to become a lifelong professional in the field of rescue and emergency services.

That is exactly what she has done, rising through the ranks at SARCO to eventually become commander emeritus and board president.

Ouellette told The Valley Breeze & Observer her story after a ceremony Sunday, Sept. 22, to celebrate the corps' 60 years of service, held at SARCO headquarters, 1003 Danielson Pike, and attended by about 60 people. A buffet luncheon was served in the rescue garage, prayers were said for deceased members, and celebratory proclamations from the town and state were acknowledged.

The rescue and ambulance corps is a unique organization. "We are all volunteers," Ouellette said of the 26-member corps. "None of our members receives compensation for what they do. We volunteer for what we call 'the good of the corps.'" Three paramedics, with three more now completing their training, as well as EMTs at basic and cardiac levels, are among those on the SARCO roster. Corps members usually have other, paying jobs.

Ouellette explained that in general EMTs and paramedics, after classroom training is done, must work out in the field for specified amounts of time, so the newcomers often join groups like SARCO to obtain hands-on experience. Most SARCO corpsmen and -women are not from Scituate, but live in other Rhode Island cities and towns, Ouellette said.

Another reason SARCO differs from other groups is because it is dependent on donations, rather than taxpayer dollars, with one exception. For the second year only, the town of Scituate has included funds for SARCO in its annual $33.3 million 2013-14 budget, and this year SARCO is getting $33,048. Fire departments in town receive town funds every year, so the council decided SARCO should as well, explained Town Councilwoman Kathleen Knight-Bianchi.

Knight-Bianchi, councilmen David A. D'Agostino and John Winfield Jr. worked together to win approval for the new line item. "I've always supported them (SARCO)," said the councilwoman at Sunday's event. "They were very good to my family when we moved here in the 1960s."

Knight-Bianchi recalled that her father, the late Henry Knight Sr., fell off a roof at home shortly after they moved into town, suffering injuries severe enough to keep him out of work for about six months.

Then a child, "I was so scared," she said. SARCO provided a wheelchair for her father's use, along with other assistance. "I grew up with respect for the fire department and rescue corps, it was a different time then," she said.

Karen Mueller, who moved to town about two years ago, described her family as newcomers to Scituate. Along with her mother and children, she was at the SARCO celebration to get to know the community better, she said, and was impressed by the corps' longevity. "It's pretty amazing that they've been around that long," she said.

Today, SARCO's two rescue trucks respond to "hundreds of calls" every year, Ouellette said, working exclusively at night and covering the Chopmist Hill area in Scituate, unless mutual aid calls from other areas require their response.

Training is an ongoing process, the president said, with classes in-house and with members taking, as well as teaching, courses in other parts of the state.

Sunday's celebration kicked off a fundraising drive for two pieces of equipment, according to Ouellette: a refurbished 12-lead defibrillator for Advanced Life Support calls, estimated cost $18,000; and an electric stretcher that lifts itself because, she noted, back problems are a frequent complaint among rescue workers, at about $30,000.

Donations can be sent to SARCO, P.O. Box 333, Scituate, R.I., 02857.