Volunteers work to keep Pa. ambulance service funded, running
Rather than let it shut down, personnel from a neighboring ambulance service offered to help keep the Weatherly Ambulance Association afloat
Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.
WEATHERLY, Pa. — The ambulance unit that serves the Weatherly area continues to operate while volunteers work to raise money to sustain it.
In August 2018, borough council members learned the Weatherly Ambulance Association — which also serves Lehigh, Lausanne and Packer townships — was in financial trouble.
The operations manager at the time, the late Lorraine Labor, said the association was $75,000 short of meeting its annual expenses and only had enough money in savings to last another year.
One of her ideas to cut expenses was to shut down during off-peak times.
Rather than shut down, however, personnel from the Mahoning Valley ambulance offered to help. They are covering shifts on Wednesdays and Thursdays, according to Councilwoman Theresa D’Andrea, who is also a member of the ambulance association’s board of directors.
The ambulance board is also holding fundraisers and informing the public about the ambulance’s plight, she said.
“We are holding a Mother’s Day raffle, a Father’s Day raffle and a bake sale,” D’Andrea said Monday. “We are going out into the public, and talking to people. We are gathering information. We are looking into every way we can help. We are doing our best.”
D’Andrea said the Weatherly ambulance has suffered the same problems as other community volunteer ambulance units — having to hire paid people to replace volunteers who are no longer available or don’t have the time to train.
“The state has a lot of regulations the ambulance has to meet,” D’Andrea said. “Drivers have to be specially licensed just to drive the ambulance. When we started going paid, it drained our funds, and the people who are trained are going to go where the higher wages are.”
One thing that would help is if more Weatherly area residents subscribed to the ambulance when it has its annual membership drive. More memberships would bring in more funds, D’Andrea said.
“When people call for an ambulance, I want to make sure they are there,” she said. “We will do whatever we can to keep this ambulance.”
About a week ago, D’Andrea, fellow council members, Mayor Tom Connors and members of an intermunicipal committee met with state Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-122, Lower Towamensing Twp., about the ambulance situation.
“He is looking into a few things for us,” Connors said. “The meeting lasted about two hours. I think it was a productive meeting. We are not giving up.”
Connors said the group also wrote letters to Gov. Tom Wolf, state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Twp., and U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9, Dallas.
Heffley said he is sponsoring legislation to have checks for reimbursement of ambulance services go right to the association operating the ambulance.
“It is an unfortunate situation,” he said. “It is a concern. I’ve seen many ambulances struggle to provide services as their volunteer services are going away.”
Heffley said he also pointed out some potential grant opportunities to the association.
“They (the Weatherly people) are very passionate about their ambulance,” Heffley said. “With unemployment so low, it is harder to find people to hire.”
D’Andrea said the ambulance board’s next meeting is today.
©2019 the Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pa.)