By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The joke among members of Red Bank’s First Aid Squad is that whenever Steve DePonti sits down to eat dinner, a call comes in and he’s rushing away from a hot plate to respond.
If DePonti weren’t one of just a dozen or so responders with the squad, it might not be that way.
But the department, which receives an average of 800 medical calls a year more than two a day needs an infusion of new blood to its ranks.
“The younger generation today isn’t as enthusiastic to volunteer. We’re trying to change that,” said DePonti, 26. “Just a couple calls a week, and that’ll help offset what we have right now.”
Rallying support has been tough the last few years.
Once packed with at least 50 volunteers, the squad’s seen a steady decline of help for the regular hum of calls, with volunteers either getting older, moving away or settling into different lifestyles, leaving the workload to guys like DePonti.
Which isn’t that big a deal to DePonti, the squad’s first lieutenant. He and his brother, Captain Matt DePonti, were born into a family of Red Bank volunteers.
But they’ve got jobs, too, making it hard for them to answer calls during the day. Right now, there are about 35 members of Red Bank First Aid, and about 15 are active in responding to calls. That’s a thin cadre of reliability.
“It’s a pretty heavy load for us,” Steve DePonti said.
As a result, Red Bank has mutual aid agreements with neighbors Fair Haven and Little Silver who respond to calls in town if the Spring Street-based squad can’t muster enough people two to take an ambulance to the scene. That isn’t often the case, DePonti said, but he’d like to let those towns take care of their own.
“We want to give them a break. We would like to not have to use them at all,” he said. “We appreciate what they do, but we want to take care of ourselves.”
You don’t even have to live in Red Bank to join. All that’s required are a few first-responder courses paid for by the squad and you’re off. To rise up the ranks to EMT level, a more intense training is required.
The reward, Matt DePonti said, is well worth the effort.
“It’s definitely more enjoyable to come out and help somebody than to sit down and enjoy a hot meal,” he said.
If you’re interested, give a call to 732.320.6160, send an email or talk to somebody who’s got a first aid patch on his or her shirt, DePonti said.
“Or if the door is open, come on in,” he said.