ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS — (April 5, 2019) - Ninety years after the First Aid Squad was organized in this borough — a borough that prides itself on its community spirit — many of the names are the same, some are legion, others are legends. Names like Egidio and Gehlhaus, or McLaughlin or Posten, Irwin, Gerkens, Norcross, Olsen, Kerrigan, Huber, Joslin, DePalmer, Antonides, Blom and Minn. In today’s squad, there are second, third, and even fourth generations of the same family doing the same thing their parents taught them — get out there and help others, do what you can to make life a little better for someone else.
That’s what is going to be celebrated April 27 when the current members of the Atlantic Highlands First Aid & Safety Squad invite former members and life members to a celebration of the first 90 years at an event at the Oyster Point in Red Bank. It will be a time when the oldest and youngest, and all those in-between, can trade stories, learn something new, and simply relax over a casual evening to celebrate.
It was those first 15 members who set the high standards still being followed today among the 39 men and women on the active roster list, 11 of whom are life members. There are also another seven life members, with former councilman and volunteer Walter Curry holding the longevity title with 55 years on the squad. It’s not surprising. His dad, the late Mayor Everett Curry, dedicated scores of years on his own to the volunteer fire department.
In chronicling some of the history of this nine-decade old volunteer group, Lance Hubeny, himself a member for eight years as well as chief of the squad two years ago, noted that women members aren’t anything new to this very active and very dedicated squad. Bev Glynn has been on the squad for 40 years and no one thought twice about this charming lady answering an emergency call with a handful of men. Glynn is second to Curry in number of years on the squad. This squad has members at the other end of the age spectrum as well, with Anthony Toth just making the minimum age at 18 and Camryn Hubeny, Lance’s 19-year-old niece, now a college student, who is the daughter of Borough Administrator Adam Hubeny. In fact, there are six EMT members on the squad under the age of 21.
It’s easy to see why there are vibrant, young adults on the squad, as there is also a very active Cadet program, with a dozen high school members signed up. These cadets can go on calls with the members, excluding specific emergencies like childbirth, giving them some practical knowledge and experience. Hubeny points out this gives them the added advantage of showing how sharing the load is an asset before they even complete all their classes to become members. The squad trains, drills and promotes an active cadet program, even financing the cost of classes. Because of that, five are EMT certified and two more are currently in the process.
Today’s officers are as active as their ancestors; Mark Lockwood is president, with Billy Mount vice president, Lisa McGuire treasurer and Joe Mendoza, secretary. Line Officers are Chief Rich Glietz, Capt. Ann Schoeller and Lt. Ryan Niaclerio.
But even with the volunteerism of younger residents, more help is still needed, Hubeny said, in an open request for more volunteers. “It’s a different society today,” he said. “Other than so many who have learned from their parents that it’s important to give back to a community like ours which is so close knit and so neighborly, there are others who don’t think their contributions can be valuable, or that they can do the job.”
The former squad chief said, “But that simply isn’t true. We would love to have any volunteers who want to help their community. We will do all the training, we will send them to get the certifications they need, we will give them the opportunity to become an integrated part of a very elite group.
“In a waterfront community like ours, there’s plenty of variety in emergency calls, as well,” Hubeny said. “We can go on anything from emergencies on boats in the mooring field or at the dock in the harbor to possible drownings as we had once just 300 yards off the pier. We’ve had the occasional birth and more frequent cardiac or breathing emergencies, together with everything in between.” The squad answers more than 300 calls a year, including turning out for every fire just in case.
The squad is also one of the ever-narrowing group of volunteers who still perform their services without any paid staff. Some towns rely on paid EMT services for daytime calls — such as Middletown and Red Bank — relying on their volunteers for the night hours and, or, weekends because of fewer volunteers being available during daytime hours. In this community, which answers calls within a two-mile limit of its borders, there are moms with children in school who work at home, like Capt. Schoeller, who are available during the day.
It’s also an incredibly well outfitted squad, thanks to the generosity of residents and prudent purchases by squad officials. In addition to two fully equipped ambulances and a 19-foot Boston Whaler for bay and ocean rescues, there is a four-wheel drive Polaris for traveling to emergencies on Henry Hudson Trail or beaches, or to make it through unplowed hills in heavy snowfalls. There is also a Zodiac, a rigid, hulled boat that handles emergencies in flooded areas or shallow water. Additionally, the squad shares MAB6, a medical ambulance bus, with Keyport, that enables them to transport approximately 20 patients at a time in the event of mass casualty incident or need to evacuate a hospital or nursing facility.
Some of this equipment is thanks to recognition by companies where the volunteers work in their professional lives. In the case of Hubeny, for example, his former employer, Well Fargo, presented the squad with a $25,000 grant when the firm named him their Volunteer of the Year. That money went for more training for volunteers and new equipment. In the case of Jerry Pandolfo, Public Service Power and Light gave another $10,000 grant in appreciation of their employee’s dedication to the squad.
The squad would like to celebrate its 90th anniversary with new volunteers who can hear the stories of the 20th Century volunteers and continue their dedication well into the next decades of the 21st Century. Interested persons are invited to call Hubeny at 732-492-6389 or email info@AHfirstaidsquad.org.
“It’s an opportunity for anyone with the time to give something back to the community, while learning a life skill,” Hubeny said.