$180,000 gift starts ambulance donation chain reaction

Gaylord EMS bought a new ambulance with a bequest from a farmer and gave their old ambulance to a neighboring department in need of a newer vehicle


By Kristine Goodrich
The Free Press

COMFREY, Minn. — When the Gaylord Emergency Medical Services received an endowment from a local farmer, its members decided to share the generosity with a neighboring department.

The benefiting members of the Comfrey First Responder Department continued the chain of charitableness on to the Sanborn First Responder Department.

The new Gaylord EMS ambulance was purchased and equipped with a donation to the service.
The new Gaylord EMS ambulance was purchased and equipped with a donation to the service. (Image courtesy Facebook Gaylord EMS)

The result is all three departments have a brand new or a new used emergency medical response (EMS) vehicle.

The late Fred Pitzner of Winthrop left a gift to the Gaylord EMS in his will. The approximately $180,000 received last year was nearly enough to purchase a new ambulance and outfit it with new equipment.

Selling the current 1998 ambulance would have brought in more than enough profit to buy a new rig with no withdrawal from the department's coffers. But Gaylord EMS President Tom Webster pitched a different idea. He suggested they pay it forward by donating their vehicle to a department in need.

The department already had some funds saved and set aside to go toward the future purchase of an ambulance. The ambulance fund is supported by department fundraising events and donations.

“We've been very fortunate to have a lot of support from our communities,” said Gaylord EMS member Mark Brandt.

The Gaylord EMS members and the Gaylord City Council and the town boards of the several townships served by Gaylord EMS gave their blessing to donate instead of sell the older ambulance.

Webster reached out to Mark Griffith, director of the South Central Minnesota EMS System. Griffith suggested Comfrey might be in the greatest need of a new ride, as its ambulance is nearly 30 years old.

Not long after he reached out to the Comfrey department, Webster died in a bicycling accident last July.

Brandt and other Gaylord EMS members carried through with the idea in Webster's memory.

Representatives of the Gaylord, Comfrey and Sanborn departments assembled Monday evening at the Comfrey Fire Hall to start the exchange. (Image courtesy Facebook Gaylord EMS) 

Gaylord's extra ambulance was turned over to the Comfrey department.

Gaylord's new ambulance arrived May 25 and is nearly ready to hit the road, Brandt said. It features an automated patient lift and will become the department's primary ambulance. The 8-year-old ambulance that is currently the primary vehicle will become the backup.

In Comfrey, Gaylord's donated ambulance will become the department's only response vehicle. The Comfrey first-responders don't transport people having a medical emergency; they provide care until an ambulance arrives and will use the re-purposed Gaylord ambulance to transport their equipment.

“It's basically an ambulance except for a cot,” said Comfrey First Responder Department treasurer Mark Warner.

Comfrey's current vehicle, which services more than 100 square miles, was acquired in 1988. The 10-member department has been seeking to upgrade for some time but funding had not been available, Warner said.

When Gaylord made its offer, the Comfrey members decided to continue the giving by offering their aging but still operational vehicle to neighboring departments free of charge.

“We felt we needed to extend this gift to someone else as well,” Warner said.

The Sanborn First Responder Department was the first to accept the offer and will receive Comfrey's old vehicle in a week or two.

It will be Sanborn's first ever department vehicle, which like Comfrey won't transport patients but will transport responders and equipment.

Sanborn's eight department members presently carry equipment and respond in their personal vehicles.

Sandorn EMT Al Larson said he's “very grateful” for the donations from Gaylord and Comfrey that will improve his member's safety and quality of service.

“It's a great gift to be receiving,” he said.

The department vehicle is equipped with lights and sirens, which could improve response time and improve the responders' safety when they're en route.

At accident scenes, their new vehicle can provide a temporary refuge for a victim until an ambulance arrives. It will also mean fewer Sandborn responders' personal vehicles will be potentially in the way at accident scenes, Larson said.

The Sanborn Masonic Lodge is donating to the department to help with operational costs associated with their new vehicle, such as insurance and maintenance.

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©2016 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.)

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