Joann Gerbig, resident of Cazenovia, is a long-time volunteer for the Cazenovia Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps (CAVAC). A CAVAC member since 2001, she currently dispatches for four hours, two days per week.
As a dispatcher, her job entails a variety of tasks from answering the phones, recording information from the 911 dispatchers and ambulance crews, assembling backup crews, and helping people who come in looking for information on equipment loans. Joann has no hesitation in rattling off the required skills of a good dispatcher. “They have to like people, be polite and friendly at all times, keep their cool under stress, have compassion for others, and want to be helpful.”
Many shifts are quiet with little activity but other shifts can be quite busy. She admits that occasionally the job can be stressful — but only when there are a lot of back to back calls.
Joann grew up in Morrisville, married her high school sweetheart Ben Gerbig, and then moved to Brockport when Ben was in college. Joann ran a children’s daycare out of her homes in Albion and Kendall while Ben held various teaching and coaching positions. The couple stayed away from the area for about 40 years due to various jobs, returning after they had both retired in 2000 to be nearer to their grown children.
A friend suggested to Joann that she volunteer at CAVAC in January of 2001 and by March she was officially qualified as a dispatcher. When she started she volunteered one shift every other Wednesday in the old CAVAC building on Forman Street (the historic Carpenter’s Barn).
“I absolutely love it. I love my CAVAC family. I feel like I’m doing something for my community but it’s also for me. It’s something to look forward to and the best thing I ever did for myself since I came here.” Joann says.
Joann’s husband Ben is also a dispatcher. “It’s something we can share. We fill in for each other when we can’t make our shift. He enjoys it as much as I do.”
Joann’s most memorable moment was receiving the CAVAC President’s award in 2011 for exemplary service. “I had tears in my eyes.” Joann recalls.
When asked what she liked most about volunteering at CAVAC Joann immediately replied, “The people I work with. CAVAC has the best staffed and most organized ambulance service in Madison County. It makes me proud to be a member of this organization.” She likes the fact that the CAVAC team “knows the people they serve.”
As an experienced dispatcher, Joann also provides training to those wanting to volunteer. “I enjoy training. I’ve been training since we were in the old building. I like passing the knowledge on to new dispatchers. I hope they enjoy it half as much as I do!” To become a dispatcher, new recruits are paired with an experienced volunteer who shows them their specific duties and mentors them as they take their first calls.
Joann encourages others to consider volunteering at CAVAC. “If you would like to do something for yourself and community, give it a thought. It is very gratifying. You make so many new friends and you’re doing something for your community.”
If you’re interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with CAVAC, please contact Cindy Underriner at 655-0300.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.