Members of the New Paltz Rescue Squad: Gina Bassinette, James Bell, Scott Bender, Caitlin Bercovici,Jason Conway, Ellen Dietz, Bob Elsinger, Ron Fields, Devon Jameson, Matt Krein, Brian Link, Jim Martin, Art Mellor, Kaileigh Osarczuk, Dan Reiser, Lauren Rooney and Jen Zoccoli. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Members of the New Paltz Rescue Squad: Gina Bassinette, James Bell, Scott Bender, Caitlin Bercovici,Jason Conway, Ellen Dietz, Bob Elsinger, Ron Fields, Devon Jameson, Matt Krein, Brian Link, Jim Martin, Art Mellor, Kaileigh Osarczuk, Dan Reiser, Lauren Rooney and Jen Zoccoli. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

This year the almost-all-volunteer New Paltz Rescue Squad (NPRS) celebrated its 40th year of serving the community. Established in 1973 by a handful of dedicated citizens, the Squad had the use of one small ambulance. While the original homegrown, community-based and family-like atmosphere is as strong today as it was in 1973, the NPRS now has 80 members, three ambulances, two fly vehicles, its first permanent home and facility off North Putt Corners Road and has responded to more than 2,000 calls in 2012. The New Paltz Times interviewed several members, both veterans and newcomers, to find out how the emergency service has grown, and in many ways, according to its membership, how it has stayed the same.

Gina Bassinette, the NPRS chief, has been with the organization for more than ten years. She said that, while there were others who could speak to the longer evolution of the Squad, in her tenure she has seen it “increase from a completely volunteer organization to including a half-dozen paid staff members that can ensure we have an advanced life support [licensed paramedic] on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

To that end, NPRS also has some paid part-time and full-time paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) on staff to make sure that it’s fully equipped and prepared for any medical call that comes its way. The two “fly-cars” are equipped for a paramedic and an EMT care provider, so that they can show up to a call with all of the medicines and equipment needed to respond if an ambulance is not available or delayed due to another call.

The approximately 13,500-square-foot facility provides sleeping quarters, a full kitchen, a living room and multiple bathrooms so that NPRS staff members are not called from home, but sleep over in 12-hour shifts, responding directly from the site off North Putt Corners Road.

Asked what has made the Squad’s volunteer membership grow to such a large number, Bassinette said that it was due to many things. “We have the college here, and at least in the years I’ve been here, we’ve had a large increase in pre-med students at SUNY New Paltz who want to gain some experience, get the basic training they need, serve their community and then often go on to med school or nursing school, and many times return to us.”