Pittsford Volunteer Ambulance celebrates 50 years of service

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WHEC) — Pittsford Volunteer Ambulance Saturday marked its 50th anniversary with a celebration and recollections of a service borne of necessity back in 1971.

Today’s Capt. Jonathan Smith said his company has come a long way in half a century.

"The folks are all awesome," Smith said. "They’re all dedicated. They’re ready to go."

When the Pittsford community came together Saturday to celebrate this milestone, the fire department and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office joined in.

"We’ve gone from being solely a volunteer EMT service to a combination of paid folks and volunteers who are EMTs and paramedics," Smith said.

Diane Dobbertin went through old pictures remembering when she helped launch Pittsford Volunteer Ambulance as one of its first volunteers.

"It was just basic," Dobbertin said. "Very basic."

The service began after a girl was hurt in a car accident in the 1960s and it took a long time for help to get there.

"There were two doctors in town, in Pittsford Village that we could call but they couldn’t always come to answer," Dobbertin said. "You just had to get somebody to take you, Very carefully, to the hospital."

The volunteers took first aid and CPR classes and pooled their money, ultimately getting supplies like stretchers and an actual ambulance, which they didn’t have for their earliest patients.

"We knew how to kind of carefully pick them up and put them on the stretcher and get them in the backseat of a car," Dobbertin said.

Over the years the service brought in volunteers like now-State Sen. Samra Brouk (D-55) who worked as a dispatcher and now hopes to see more people line up to help.

"Doing that kind of outreach, having a big event like this to celebrate 50 years and tell people ‘This what we do here at the ambulance.’ is huge," Dobbertin said. "Recruiting folks who are interested in medicine, or even just the past year and a half with the COVID pandemic, people want to help. This is a way you can help."

Today the company is a dozen volunteers plus a full staff of paid medical professionals but is still looking for volunteers to join up.

Leaders are trying to get creative by asking college students from out of state, who may do this kind of volunteering back at home, to get extra experience here, while maintaining a high quality of care.

"It doesn’t matter what ambulance comes out, or what crew, I would challenge you to tell the difference between the paid folks and the volunteers," Smith said. "They are all on point. Exceptional clinicians, skilled and dedicated to making sure that folks are getting the care that they need."

Ambulance company leaders say their call volume has picked up steadily over the past few years but the volunteers and pros have kept up with the state of the art in technology and training.