1st written September 2009 by Chief David Nelinson and Katherine Williams, with assistance of Richard Litton of the Burlington County First Aid Council and Past President and Life Member Mary Beerhalter , 1920-2011.
"The great arrogance of the present is to forget the intelligence of the past." Ken Burns
A formatted version is available here (1.1 MB in PDF).
In 1954, Levitt and Sons acquired land in the township and started to build what is now known as Willingboro Township. In 1958, the first Levitt home was occupied. At that same time, the Burlington County Times published its first issue in its Willingboro home. In 1959, Charles Van Kirk saw a need for an ambulance service in the growing town. Prior to then, when the residents or visitors to Levittown needed an ambulance, one was dispatched from Beverley, Burlington, or Rancocas. In the fall of 1959, Van Kirk placed an ad in the Burlington County Times looking for people who were interested in starting an ambulance service. Nineteen people initially responded to this call for help. The Levittown Emergency Squad was then organized in April 1960 at the Buckeye Lane home of William and Ethel Smith. At that time, the township population was 11,861.
The original charter members were Charles Van Kirk, Calvin Stevenson, Leonard Muggleworth, Carol Supplee, James Supplee, Reverend William Downs, Harry Guthrie, Isabel Guthrie, Edward Golsin, Thomas Mc Cann, Faith Hubbs, Robert Schramm, William Woolston, Maryanne Hubbs, Morrell Hubbs, Lynwood Symons, David Hildreth, Ethel Smith and William Smith. Calvin Stevenson was the first president and Charles Van Kirk, who also helped organize the fire company, was the first captain. A number of the Charter members obtained second mortgages on their recently purchased homes in order to obtain the first ambulance. The first ambulance, a 1955 Cadillac, was purchased for $4200. This ambulance was first kept in the driveway of the Smith's Buckingham Park residence, unless another duty driver took it home. The Smith's residence was also the first dispatch center for the emergency squad. For the first year, the emergency squad worked directly with the Beverly Emergency squad until it was up and running on its own.
Calls on the 877-HELP (4357) line for help came to the Smith's house. Mrs. Ethel Smith answered the calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If Mrs. Smith had to go out, Charles Van Kirk would come over and monitor the phone. When a call would come in, Mrs. Smith would obtain the information and then call available people to answer the call. The ambulances would communicate directly with the police dispatcher on the police channel. Many of the patients were transported to Burlington County Memorial Hospital, since Rancocas Valley Hospital was not formally dedicated until 1961. The Levittown Squad frequently transported its patients to hospitals in the Philadelphia area as well. Within 2-3 years, more dispatchers were added and had the emergency phone installed at their house as well. This network grew to include over 10 dispatchers working out of their houses 24 hours a day. Many of the calls that were received were from patients' doctors while on house calls. This unique and personal dispatch service continued until June 1983 when the squad voted to switch dispatching over to the Burlington County Central Communications, thus ending a 23 year tradition. During the first few years, the funding for the squad came directly from donations provided by the residents of the expanding community.
With the help of the community donations in 1963, the first new ambulance was purchased from the Trenton Truck Company. As the town grew, so did the squad. Unfortunately, they still lacked a home. Ambulances were kept at members' homes and one was kept at the Rancocas Valley Hospital (now Lourdes Hospital). Meetings and training were held in members' homes, churches, and at the hospital.
In 1964, the members of the squad voted to change the name of the squad. It was changed to the Willingboro Emergency Squad to reflect the change in the community name the year before.
In 1969, the Willingboro Emergency Services Building opened at Charleston Rd. and John F. Kennedy Way. This building was shared with the Willingboro Volunteer Fire Company #1. As both the fire company and the squad were growing, it became apparent the emergency squad needed its own facility. In 1973, an addition was added to the Emergency Services Building and the squad finally had its own home
By 1975, the squad had grown to over 100 members who were staffing five ambulances, a rescue truck, and two boats all serving what was one of the largest suburban communities in South Jersey. Throughout this growth the Willingboro Township continued its support of the squad with the purchase of vehicles, capital items, and a portion of the operating expenses. As its tradition, the Willingboro Emergency Squad still turns to the community to cover expenses with its annual fund drive.
In February 1983, the Willingboro Squad opened its rolls to members that wished to assist the primary function of the Squad, but did not wish to become first-aiders. They created the Auxiliary Membership and became an integral part of the squad activities. Many Axillary Members are still active today in a multitude of positions behind the scenes. In November 1983, the Willingboro Squad extended their rolls again by creating a Junior Membership. The juniors were trained like the full members, while maintaining their good grades in high school. Today, Juniors provide the same high quality of treatment and high standards expected from their adult crew members.
Throughout the years, Willingboro Squad always considered itself to be an innovator and at the forefront of changes in emergency medical services in Burlington County. Willingboro Squad was one of the first squads to embrace females and minorities not only as members, but in leadership roles. In 1960, they became one of the early members to the Burlington County First Aid Council. The Burlington County First Aid Council served to unite the organizations in the county who were offering volunteer first aid service to the residents of the their community. The Burlington County First Aid Council began a more in depth training called Five Points which went beyond the basic first aider level. Willingboro members were learning the new skills needed to provide some of the changes to emergency medical care. Over the years, the Burlington County First Aid Council organization improved the first aid service in the county, as well as training their member volunteers with a state recognized training school, the Burlington County First Aid Academy. The squad was one of the first to promote Emergency Medical Technician training in the early 1970's. Chief Emeritus John Carney was one of the first instructors in Burlington County. Following his example, a number of the members became instructors making Willingboro Squad one of the most active squads in the guidance of the next generation of life savers.
When the Mobile Intensive Care Unit was initiated by Memorial Hospital of Burlington County, Willingboro Squad lent its support by running fundraisers and promoting the new service. Many of the Willingboro members were the first county paramedics for the hospital, including Alan Pollon, Gus Maier, and Earl Richards. During their off time, these medics continued to both volunteer for the squad and as instructors at the Burlington County First Aid Academy. These same members not only influenced the progress of emergency care in the Willingboro community, they had impacted at the county and state levels as well. Gus Maier served many years as the president of the Burlington County First Aid Council. Alan Pollon, as vice president of the First Aid Council, lobbied for legislation that created the dedicated funding source for emergency medical training for volunteers throughout the state. Paul Bent, as legislative aid, assisted in drafting legislation that provides college tuition credit for the members of emergency squads and fire departments. Many Willingboro Squad members have used their training as a stepping stone for careers in medicine, nursing, public safety, and military service.
As technology changed, Willingboro Squad stayed as an example to the squads in Burlington County. In the 1980's, they were amongst the earliest squads to upgrade from the van ambulance to the ambulances we are familiar with today. In 1993, the Emergency Squad trained its members along with the EMT Police Officers in the use of the Automatic External Defibrillators (AED). The AED devices were placed in every ambulance and in the Police EMT vehicles. This program has had a direct impact on the residents by improving the survival of sudden cardiac arrest patients.
In the recent years, even the Willingboro Emergency Squad was not immune to the impact of the reduction of volunteerism affecting the nation. Many people became less available for calls even though there continued to be an increase in the volume of calls for emergency assistance. Many of the calls began to be handled by our neighboring communities again. Willingboro Township, like many of the other communities throughout the state, needed to make a change to assure the residents the same quality of care they had always received. In 2008, Willingboro Township began to hire per-diem staff for the ambulances during times when volunteers were not available. In 2011, with the increase need to coordinate and supervise per-deim staff, a part time EMS Captain was created. In 2012 Civil Service posted announcement for FullTime Deputy Chief of EMS.
In 2013 Willingboro Emergency Squad expanded it's role to provide community outeach, including community CPR and First Aid Training.
In August of 2013, Matthew Schworeri was appointed as a full time Deputy Chief of EMS responsible for day-day EMS operations, including supervision of Per-Deim and Volunteer EMS providers.
In December of 2013, a partnership was created between the Willingboro Emergency Squad and the Willingboro Rotary Club, to sponsor the the initial EMT Training of new members. This was result of the increased cost of basic EMT training which can run up to $1400 and changes in the NJ State EMT Training Fund. Members that are sponsored must pledge they will remain an active member for a minimum of 2 years after completion of the training.
2014 Willingboro Twp EMS participates in Virtua Hospital's MORE program for training and medical oversight.
Today whether it be paid, volunteer, or both, the tradition of service, quality of compassionate care for the sick and injured that the residents have come to expect from the Willingboro Emergency Squad since 1960, will continue.