CHARLESTOWN — In early 1971, a small group of volunteers came together in an effort to improve medical response in the community, aiming to provide better emergency assistance for residents and visitors to the shoreline town. Within a short period of time, the volunteers were able to acquire an ambulance and partnered with the Cross Mills Fire Department, who provided a bay within the fire station.
By March of that year, the Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service was born — and 50 years later, department Chief Andrew Kettle said those efforts remain a crucial part of the agency’s continued success.
“Over the years, we have been fortunate to have so many dedicated people who have helped mold the organization into what it is today,” Kettle said. “We’ve come a long way since that first year, but we are continuing to grow and continue to receive incredible support from the town and those in the community.”
The Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the organization’s founding on June 26, opening its doors to the public and offering a chance for area residents to hear where the department has come from and see what it has become today. The department will host a ceremony at 10 a.m. with the dedication of a memorial stone featuring the year of inception and the department’s original logo, a nod to the agency’s long history of service to the town.
Kettle said that for members of the department, the celebration is later than hoped but will serve as an important way to thank those who have been involved and highlight the work that countless volunteers have put in over the years. He said the agency had hoped to celebrate in March, exactly 50 years after the department was founded, but delayed the ceremony to assure safety amid a global pandemic.
To its members and those in the community, the Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service has meant many things over the years. For some, it has been a way to give back to the town; for others, it is opportunity to receive training and gain experience in order to build a career in emergency response; and for still others, some whose first introduction to the department came in their time of greatest need, the agency and its volunteers have literally been a life saver.
For members of the organization such as Kettle, the department today would be unrecognizable from the one he joined 21 years ago as a junior member at the age of 17. In just the time he has served alone, Kettle said the job is entirely different than it once was.
Over the past 20 years, the agency has doubled the number of annual responses, expanded rescue efforts and abilities, implemented new technology and protocols to improve response success rates. The department has grown to include 45 active members, including 25 who have been able to serve in a near full-time role as needed.
“The job is vastly different than even when I began,” Kettle said. “With science ever evolving, we have been fortunate to have the support we’ve needed to care and provide for our patients everyday.”
Sue Monroe, a member of the ambulance service’s Board of Directors, has shared stories over the last month highlighting members that have volunteered their service to the agency, from EMTs right up through the department’s top officers.
She praised the efforts of members over the years, some who have more than two decades of service, noting that members continue to work each day to improve and expand services in order to keep those in the community safe.
“[The Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service] has been honored to have the privilege of serving the community for the last 50 years, and looks forward to serving for another 50 years and beyond,” she said. “We proudly stand at the ready to serve the community.”