Volunteering at rescue squad is a family affair
The Low-Beer family poses in front of the newly renovated garage doors at the Kendall Park First Aid & Rescue Squad headquarters on New Road. Pictured are brothers Frank Low-Beer (standing, far left) and Alfred Low-Beer (standing, far right). Also pictured are: (sitting, l-r) Eva, Josh, Nicole, and Maureen Low-Beer; (standing, l-r): Nickolas, Timothy, Kyle, and Brian Low- Beer. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LOW-BEERS SOUTH BRUNSWICK — For Albert and Frank Low-Beer, volunteering at the Kendall Park First Aid & Rescue Squad is a family affair.
The brothers, who both live in Kendall Park, have been volunteers with the squad for 38 and 35 years, respectively, and show no signs of slowing down. Over 30 years later, nearly every person in the immediate family continues to spend their spare time answering 911 calls.
“This is always something I wanted to do and continued to do,” Al said.
Al, a 57-year-old attorney, took a first aid class in 1967 and joined the squad in 1973, right after the squad dropped its age to join from 21 to 18. Since then, he has held every position in leadership, aside from treasurer and president, and has held a seat on the board of trustees for over 20 years.
“I’m not the oldest person on the squad, but I did go from being the youngest on the squad to one of the older members,” Low- Beer said. “From time to time, I find myself telling younger squad members how it was.”
Frank was not far behind in joining his brother; a 55-year-old engineer, Frank took the same first aid class as his brother and first served with Rutgers’ volunteer first aid squad before joining Kendall Park in 1977.
“I took a first aid class when I was 10 years old,” Frank said. “I always wanted to do it, so I started out when I was in college, where I would run (answer 911 calls) with Rutgers.”
The brothers continued to volunteer at Kendall Park while they began their professional careers, but the squad continued to touch every aspect of their lives: Frank met his wife, Eva, while she volunteered at the squad through the CIPED (Community Involvement Personal Educational Development) program at South Brunswick High School, a now-defunct program which paired students with opportunities that interested them.
“They always wanted to be involved,” Frank said. “They spent a lot of time here and would always come to the building and liked looking at the ambulances. They were exposed to it for a very long time and expressed interest at a very young age.”
While Al did not meet his wife, Maureen, while volunteering at the squad, he believes he encouraged her to get involved. She went on calls, but stopped due to health.
“She joined because I was a member,” Al said.
One of Al’s sons, Kyle, jumped on board much like his parents, uncle, aunt, and cousins and currently volunteers.
“My son was interested and always wanted to join,” Al said. “All four of Frank’s kids saw that.”
Over the years, Frank and Al saw many changes to the squad, but the one thing that remained consistent was the love and dedication of the volunteers involved.
“A long time ago, I was told that you can tell the quality of the community by the quality of their emergency volunteer services,” Al said. “Where a lot of towns have to move to paid, South Brunswick is still volunteer for the most part. We’re lucky because all five weeknights are covered.”
If anything, the squad is called more frequently than ever, a sign of the standing of the squad in the community.
“Back in the 1970s, all of the calls were serious in nature, but now, people call more and more just to help to get people back into bed,” Al said. “People did not call us for that 35 years ago, and now we get that quite a bit.”
Al believes that the rate of phone calls has grown disproportionately to the size of the community.
“We’ve become more of the way that people get into the medical system—people use the (emergency room) to get into the hospital, so we get used more,” Al explained. “The population has grown, but the number of calls has increased more than the population has.”
The squad handles approximately 1,800 calls per year and does not bill for its services.
“The number of volunteer agencies have gone down and replaced by paid services because volunteerism just isn’t in the community,” Al said. “When I started on the squad, we had assigned shifts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, no problem. Now, we have more difficulty.”
However, for the Low-Beer family, being involved with Kendall Park First Aid & Rescue Squad has instilled the ideals of community and responsibility in future generations.
“My children have always had community involvement because they were or are involved in the squad,” Frank said. “My kids get involved in other activities that are for the community. They like to help others and that’s what’s come out of our time with the squad… we instilled in them faith in community, knowing people, and helping people.”