The Westerly Ambulance Corps, Inc.
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Open house on Saturday set to celebrate 100 years for Westerly Ambulance Corps
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By Jason Vallee Sun staff writer
September 21, 2017

WESTERLY — For members of the Westerly Ambulance Corps, the oldest private volunteer ambulance corps in the U.S., success has been 100 years in the making.

That success will be recognized Saturday and a “Century of Service” will be recognized Saturday when the corps opens the doors to their headquarters for the 100th anniversary open house and public celebration. The event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., is open to the public free of charge and will be held at 30 Chestnut St., with demonstrations on site as well as at the nearby St. Pius School.

“For most people, the only time they see us is when there is an emergency or in a time of need,” said Assistant Chief Michael T. Brancato. “One of the goals of the open house is to eliminate that emergency, to give people an opportunity to stop in a relaxed atmosphere to really see what it is we do. I’m excited and think this will provide a chance to see the corps in a different light.”

The event is one of several as part of the 100th anniversary celebration. Members of the corps have already participated in a kick-off ceremony in January in which the agency unveiled a new logo, took part in a memorial celebration in June at the Old Hopkinton Cemetery grave of founder Dr. Frank I. Payne, and received recognition from Gov. Gina Raimondo earlier this month.

The yearlong celebration will also include recognition of Dr. Payne through use of a division in the Westerly-Pawcatuck Columbus Day Parade in October and end a 100th anniversary banquet to close out the year. That banquet will not open to the public.

Founded in 1917, the Westerly Ambulance Corps, Inc., has grown over the past 100 years into a department with five active ambulances and a dispatch center that boast some of the most modern emergency medical and rescue equipment available. The organization provides emergency 911 dispatching services for itself and 14 emergency response agencies in the region.

During previous anniversaries including the 50th and 75th celebrations, past commander J. William Gibney said the department held just a single-day event. With a growing need for volunteers and more medical services available through the corps than ever before, however, Gibney said the agency wanted a more comprehensive effort.

“Even over just the past 25 years, there’s a lot that has changed,” said Gibney, a member of the anniversary committee who has held multiple roles within the organization over the years. “Even in looking at just the technology and training, the growth within the organization and the industry has been amazing.”

Gibney said Wednesday that he still recalls the days of basic advance first aid training, the only required training to become an active member. The department was fortunate at that time to have active members who provided a wide scope of additional training, but services were largely limited to a taxi-like service that brought those in need to the hospital.

“Today, it’s more like we are brining the emergency room to them,” he said.

Gibney and Brancato each said Saturday’s open house will give members a chance to share these stories and more. The event will also include an R.I. special needs registration, EMT demonstrations, tours of the facility and ambulances, police K-9 demonstrations, a child seat clinic, a Lifestar emergency helicopter landing at 1 p.m. (weather and emergency needs permitting), and more. Brancato said Westerly Hospital has also partnered with the agency and will provide additional demonstrations and free medical screenings.

In addition, the corps is looking forward to connecting with old members and perhaps even recruiting new volunteers interested in joining the agency and giving back to the Westerly-Pawcatuck community.

“We are anticipating a good turnout and have a lot of great opportunities,” Brancato said. “I’m excited for this weekend.”

Calling all former members!

Have you formerly served as a member of the Westerly Ambulance Corps? Do you have a family member who has?

The corps is inviting all past members and there families to reach out and take part in the annual event. Those interested in sharing their stories who are unable to attend are encouraged to call 401-596-4375.

Westerly Ambulance Corps 100th anniversary open house

When: Saturday, Sept. 23, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Where: Westerly Ambulance Corps Headquarters 30 Chestnut St., Westerly

Details: The event is free and open to the public.

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