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Sentinel News 9-27-2012

Rescue squad answers the call for building repairs


SOUTH BRUNSWICK — After two years of planning and many more of need, the Kendall Park First Aid & Rescue Squad unveiled extensive renovations to its headquarters during a Sept. 19 dedication ceremony.

The facility, located on New Road in Kendall Park, is home to one of three first aid squads in South Brunswick. The squad has 45 volunteers and answers 1,800 calls a year, including three calls that happened during the dedication ceremony.

Built in 1960, the two buildings that made up the squad became too small and were not up-to-date enough for its needs.

“I joined the squad 10 years ago, and [we’ve] been discussing the renovations almost since I joined, and I’m sure before that,” said Bill Kennedy, president of the Kendall Park First Aid & Rescue Squad.

Renovations included repairs to a leaking roof and additions to reduce the risk of hazards around the building.

They took about five months to complete.

“A lot of our renovations were health, safety, and operational issues,” Rich Goselin, a volunteer with the squad and organizer of the building dedication, told the Sentinel.

It was clear to the volunteers that the building was in need of repairs, not just a cosmetic uplift, so about two years ago, the needed repairs and additions were settled on.

“We had various discussions over that period of time (10 years),” Kennedy said. “The first thing we realized [two years ago] was the amount of cost that it would take just to cosmetically improve the building was a waste of money. We embarked upon a plan to figure out what to do to gain more space and more facilities for the future.”

A leaking roof was the first major repair that needed to be done.

“Our roof was so bad that we had water coming in as a stream, and all our supplies were in the way,” Goselin said. “In some cases, they would get damaged a little bit because of the amount of water that would come in.”

A garage that houses two of the four ambulances was expanded 12 feet in its rear and around 4 feet in the front to accommodate for larger ambulances.

“Previously, we had less than two inches on each side to back ambulances in,” Goselin said. “We had people hit the side of the building, make marks on the wall and bend the ambulance mirrors.”

“If anyone looks at our recent ambulances, you can see that they … are very big and they don’t fit in the old building,” Kennedy said.

The renovation connected the two pre-existing buildings and larger men’s and women’s bathrooms were placed in the connecting space, including a full shower for volunteers to clean up after calls.

“If we’re on a call and exposed to blood-borne pathogens, we need to come back and decontaminate ourselves,” Goselin said. “If we needed to take a full shower, we didn’t have that before.”

The larger space also includes a meeting room and a full-size sink for cleaning equipment.

During renovations, the squad housed their operations at the Kendall Park Volunteer Fire Company, which is next door to the first aid squad.

“We have a good partnership with the fire department, so we literally moved all four of our rigs to a corner of their parking lot, ran electrical lines there and ran out of that location for three to four months.”

Kendall Park First Aid & Rescue Squad collaborated with Cornerstone Architectural Group, South Plainfield; S&K Construction, Mountainside; and Magyar Bank, New Brunswick, to complete the necessary repairs. The three companies worked together with the squad to keep costs as low as possible, for the organization is a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit and does not have a large amount of funds available.

“Wayne [Keller, of S&K Construction] came up with some ideas for us on how to get the most for our money,” Kennedy said. “Michael Soriano, of Cornerstone, helped us come up with a design to fully integrate the facilities into one cohesive unit. Magyar was able to get us financing and give us key concessions in terms of waiving lawyers fees and other financial needs, that really helped us out.”

Goselin said that the mortgage on the renovations is around $248,000, an amount that is “over and above our normal operating expenses.”

“The renovation required… a leap of faith, if you will, that if we renovate the building, those that count on us will be there financially,” Goselin said.

Despite the expense on the mortgage, the three involved companies worked toward keeping costs down in order to help the squad.

“As a community bank, we’ve had a branch in town since the late 1960s,” Al Dolnick, a vice president with Magyar Bank, said. “We find it important to reinvest in the community so the people who bank with us know that their deposits are going right back to the community.”

The squad will conduct additional donation solicitations to pay for the mortgage, in addition to the semi-annual fund drive. Donation societies and levels were created to encourage those in the community to donate.

Kendall Park, and the first aid squads in Monmouth Junction and Kingston, each receive $35,000 from the township for provisions, fuel, and ambulance repairs from the township, according to South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese. Each squad receives a new ambulance every three years, as well.

“Being an EMS volunteer is a thankless job until you need them,” Gambatese told the Sentinel.

“They’re very important to our township.”

Gambatese spoke before the ribbon cutting ceremony about his appreciation for volunteer first aid squads, who saved his son John’s life after a bicycling accident, in the Gambatese’s former town of West Paterson.

“John was hit by a car right in front of the first aid squad,” Gambatese said “That particular accident resulted in him being in a coma for 10 months. If it wasn’t for the first aid squad who… got him to the hospital so quickly and kept him alive for those 15 minutes (to the hospital), he would not be here today.”

The Kendall Park squad has helped the Gambatese family several times since his accident.

“Believe me, when I say, that I really believe in the first aid squad,” Gambatese said. “It’s a volunteer group of men and women who know that being a good citizen requires the giving of oneself, so that other people can prosper and live, so I’m thankful for them.”

After the ribbon cutting, captain Ray Weiss honored retired volunteer Tom Cooper, 90, with a lifetime membership and a plaque.

“Over the years, I ran hundreds of calls with Tom,” Weiss remarked. “Over the years, Tom kept the squad current on CPR and first aid. He taught a lot of people on the squad a lot of things, so it’s really an honor to do this for him after 24 years of service.”

For more information on how to become a volunteer, or to donate, visit the squad’s website at www.kpfars.org.

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