The Chester First Aid Squad Prepares to Celebrate 75 Years of Service

By Steve Sears

The Chester First Aid Squad, an all-volunteer group since 1945, is preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary of service to Chester residents.

Soon to be scheduled, a 75th anniversary celebration will be held during the crew’s annual awards and dinner celebration.

Russi Champi is currently the CFAS President, and a very proud one. She’s held every office except Treasurer. “I have been a member for 22 years.”  

“I have been with the squad for 40 years,” says Debbie Johnston. “I have held (as well as created positions) all roles except Treasurer and Secretary.”

Per Johnston, whose son, Jason Dilley, is current CFAS Chief, the squad started within the Chester Fire Company. “We ran side by side for many years until we split from each other in 1987. We stayed housed in the Fire Company building until we had to find our own location. The Township offered us the garage space behind the Highlands council. There was not much there but the members have worked hard each year to make this our ‘home.’”

Getting members and volunteers is the biggest challenge faced. “Chester is a two-income community which makes it difficult to find members,” says Johnston. “We also need to be Emergency Medical Technicians which takes 210 hours and yearly continuing education credits. Our calls last anywhere from 1 – 3 hours. As you can see, it can be tough to find people who are able to commit to that much time.”

The CFAS is a 24 hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-of-the-year operation. The group utilizes the aid of Atlantic Ambulance that responds to calls during the daytime, and members also respond with them to assist. “We did this to ensure the residents of Chester would have prompt help when they call 9-1-1,” affirms Johnston. And the community serves the CFAS as well. “The community helps us by donating money which helps to keep us up and running. We do get budget monies from the towns, but that has decreased so we depend on donations from residents to help us.” Johnston also mentions, “We recently separated from the Fire Company for the annual fund drive. We would like to send a big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent us a donation! This helps us to get new equipment, repair equipment and purchase the necessary first aid supplies we need.”

When asked what the future holds for CFAS, Johnston responds, “That is a great question. As you know, Morristown Ambulance recently had to close down and turn over all emergency coverage to Atlantic Ambulance due to lack of volunteers. In Chester, we have the same fears that if we are not able to get members, would we have to do the same thing? We hope not, but we do discuss the possibility and consider options in order to protect the residents of Chester.”

And that’s where volunteers come in. “ALWAYS!” states Johnston regarding needing people. “We welcome anyone to come to our building on Monday evenings at 6:30 p.m. to meet the members, get a tour, and even help wash an ambulance.”

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