Westchester County distributes grants to help EMS volunteers pay for college
Fire departments and EMS have struggled over the past decade to recruit and retain new volunteers to keep communities safe.
News 12’s Jonathan Gordon was at the Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps with details on how the county is trying a different approach to change that.
Three members of the Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps are among 50 people from the county who have received tuition scholarships to help them stay there as volunteers.
At Ardsley-Secor Ambulance Corps, not everyone gets paid.
“We struggled to recruit before COVID. That’s when we got creative and started looking at different types of programs,” says Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps Cpt. Steven Greenfield.
They are not alone.
Voluntary organizations have a critical need to find and keep new members.
Westchester launched the Higher Education Recruitment and Retention Opportunity or HERRO program as an incentive.
It has been distributing $250,000 to more than 50 volunteer first responders since March.
Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corp member Noah Bonett is among those receiving up to $6,000 a year to pay for tuition or student loans.
“It gave me the opportunity to be able to give back to the community and not feel the financial pressure of having to find other sources of income,” says Bonett.
And it pays off immediately – Ardsley-Secor responded to 94 emergency calls in July, mostly from staff between the ages of 16 and 22.
“A lot of that was on the back of our college program because a lot of our regular volunteers go on vacation in July and those kids are home and ready to work,” says Greenfeld.
According to Greenfeld, higher staffing levels directly translate to safer communities.
Eligible applicants must be active firefighters or EMS volunteers for one year, meet minimum volunteer and training levels throughout their schooling, and maintain a C grade point average.
State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick has sponsored a bill passed by both houses that would allow local governments to provide tax relief to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service workers, but Governor Kathy Hochul won’t. hasn’t signed it yet.