Squad reflects changing face of volunteerismPublished 1:56pm Thursday, March 7, 2013
The Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad has been around for 53 years, but it is currently in the process of reinventing itself through leadership changes and greater flexibility for volunteers.
The rescue squad was formed in 1960 after several men saw the need for medical rescue services. At the time, only two ambulances ran in what is now Suffolk — one from an auto body shop and one from a funeral home.
About 60 charter members signed their name to the first membership roll. Calls were run out of a muffler shop on West Washington Street, where members met during the day to pick up the ambulance and answer calls as they came in. At night, members slept in a room above the muffler shop.
The squad built its current building on Market Street in 1965. It had the first dive team in southeastern Virginia and North Carolina, and it was the second all-volunteer Advanced Life Support rescue squad in the nation.
Fast-forward to the current day, and the squad is undergoing significant leadership changes. G.W. Willman still is the chief, but his job has transferred him to Washington, D.C.
“We have an obligation to train (our) replacement,” he said. “That’s an old adage that the military has, but it holds true for the rescue squad as well.”
Before Willman left, he named three new lieutenants. Jeff Brittingham now has stepped up as the deputy chief.
“He has really led from the front,” Willman said. “We’re very fortunate to have people who really want to work hard. I thought I was leaving the rescue squad in really good hands, and I’m proud to say the rescue squad has done just fine.”
The squad has made adjustments to cope with the changing face of volunteerism, Willman added.
“We had to kind of embrace the new ways that people are volunteering,” Willman said. “Especially in this economy, they’re caught between multiple jobs in many instances. We had to be very flexible about our schedule.”
While the squad used to require three shifts per month, it now asks for about nine per three months. It’s roughly the same but allows more leeway.
Willman said the squad continues to offer classes to allow people to grow their skills, and many have gone on from the squad to make public safety their full-time job.
“I’m very proud to say that folks who volunteer at Nansemond-Suffolk have an outstanding track record at going on to jobs and making this their career,” he said. “We’re all in this together. We’re a public safety family. This lets them work side by side with a career department and give them that exposure.”
Willman also thanked the public for its support and affirmed the squad will be around for years to come.
“We are happy to stand up and deliver for as long as the public wants us to come,” he said.