FAIRMONT — The former South Robeson Rescue Unit is undergoing a name change and overhaul that are breathing new life into the unit.
“We’re reorganizing the entire unit,” said Rod Heasley, unit board of directors chairman. “We have a new name, a new identity, new bylaws have been proposed, and for the first time compensation is being offered to EMTs, advanced EMTs and paramedics … . We’re using a new broom that’s sweeping everything clean.”
The unit, now named the Fairmont Area EMS and Rescue Inc., has been struggling for several years since the resignation of Danny Parker, former unit commander and former Fairmont police chief. Parker resigned during an investigation into mismanagement of unit funding.
The current commander, Brandon Stone, is being credited for reviving the unit. Stone struggled for the past two years to hold the unit together. At one time the membership dropped to five, and the unit had to shut down operations for a couple of months.
“When Brandon became commander, there was only $2,100 in the budget,” said Heasley. “Eleven months before he became commander there was $1.3 million.”
Changes in how the unit operates and compensation for EMTs has increased members’ morale and applications for membership are piling up in his office, Stone said. The unit has grown from six members in March to 34 members. Twenty-two of the 34 members already hold certifications as EMTs and paramedics.
The unit, located at 1001 S. Walnut St., covers a service area of 170 square miles. Only Lumberton’s rescue squad covers more territory. The unit responded to 50 calls January through June 30, Heasley said, but number soard to 55 calls in July.
“From July 1 to Aug. 15, we responded to 89 medical calls and 26 crashes,” Heasley said.
The reorganization is moving along in good order, Heasley said. A new four-member board of directors has been formed, new bylaws proposed, and unit personnel are working toward obtaining basic and advanced certifications.
“We want people to know that this is a whole new organization and that we are here and not shut down,” he said.
Stone and Heasley say finding money for continued improvement and reorganization is a major priority. Air conditioning needs to be added to the station’s upstairs offices, security needs to be updated, a variety of new equipment is needed, and radios need upgrading.
“Everything we are doing now is strictly driven by finances,” Heasley said. “We’ve got the people and certifications. Now we need the finances.”
The Fairmont unit, unlike other rescue squads, receives no funding from the town in which it is headquartered. To raise money the unit has, and continues, to undertake fundraisers.
Fundraisers include a golf tournament to be held on Friday at the Fairmont Golf Club, a raffle for $500 worth of groceries, and a yard sale this weekend. They also are learning to write grant requests.
“We are trying to be as self-sufficient as we can,” Heasley said. “… But it would be nice if we can get some help from the community. We’re your first responders and we are always going to be here.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.