In its 38th year of operation, the Cazenovia Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps recently appointed two of its youngest officials, 41-year-old President Greg Widrick and 24-year-old Chief of Operations Ryan Ammann.
After assuming the position May 1, Widrick has dedicated himself to enhancing residents’ knowledge of CAVAC and increasing the local volunteer workforce.
“We will be doing a lot of internal review and statistical analysis in the coming months. I think a lot of people in this community haven’t had the experience of needing CAVAC — I don’t think they don’t appreciate our services — I just don’t think they’re aware of all we offer,” Widrick said. “I had been a member for about a year when I realized not only there was a deficit of members, but we needed more medically-trained members. You don’t need to be retired, you don’t need to have nothing else going on. It can be part of your active lifestyle. We’re here to help the community. There are a lot of things happening here, and they’re all great.”
Along with a volunteer staff of 50 and full-time staff of 12, Widrick and Ammann oversee day-to-day operations at the organization’s headquarters at 106 Nelson Road in Cazenovia.
CAVAC offers walk-in services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a professional paramedic on staff at all times. The locally-based physician can offer medical advice, suggest further treatment and arrange trips to hospitals in one of the organization’s two ambulances, equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology. A $57,000 state grant recently awarded to CAVAC allowed the purchase of two “LifePak” heart monitors and defibrillators, which can record patient’s status and send vital information to the hospital en route.
Ammann and Widrick are in the midst of converting much of CAVAC’s communications technology from analog to digital. Fielding about 828 calls in 2011, the two are gearing up for another busy season and have issued a call for additional staff, hoping to attract new drivers, dispatchers and medically-trained personnel as well as general volunteers.
“I love giving back to the community, and any change I can make to somebody’s condition makes my time completely worth it,” Ammann said. “There is not a single routine call. That is what I love about going to work every day — I never know what is going to happen, but I have the opportunity to save someone’s life.”
CAVAC volunteers can be as young as 14, as a member of the “student corps.” Widrick said there isn’t an age limit, as long as the volunteer is able to adequately perform their assigned tasks. The minimum requirement of each volunteer is two six-hour shifts per month, although some are known to far exceed the 12-hour obligation.
The headquarter location boasts a comfortable living area and ample lodging for those serving overnight.
CAVAC also offers CPR training, as well as car seat checks and installation, and awards a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating student from Cazenovia High School each year.
Ammann, who first started at CAVAC as a member of the student corps is regarded as a “legacy member.” His grandfather was one of the original founders of the organization in 1974, his father serves as a paramedic and his mother as a nurse. In addition to working at CAVAC, Ammann, a certified EMT, serves as a lieutenant for the Cazenovia Volunteer Fire Department, volunteers for the Minoa Fire Department and works as a 911 operator.
Widrick moved to Cazenovia with his wife 12 years ago, and has four young children. He said his first encounter with CAVAC came as a civilian when he first arrived in the area; his young daughter had a febrile seizure and required medical assistance. Since then, he has tried to give back to the organization and community, hoping to “pay it forward” and assist any way he can. Last year, Widrick logged 550 hours for CAVAC.
An attorney by trade, Widrick’s own business, Sphere Development is slowly expanding, having won the Request For Proposal for numerous projects, including the development of Riverside Drive in the village of Cazenovia, although the project has been but put on hold.
Presidential terms at CAVAC last one year, with a term-limit enforced after three years. Widrick took over for Cazenovia resident Cindy Underriner, after she had served for three years.
“I’ve been here long enough to know what CAVAC does, and how special it is to this community, and I would like to further increase that knowledge and awareness to other people in this community,” Widrick said. “It’s a fortunate thing that people haven’t needed our services, but it’s also a good thing to have many people that are ready and willing to help.”
Those interested in joining CAVAC are encouraged to stop by the location on Nelson Road, or visit the organization’s website, cavacambulance.org
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.