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Traer Ambulance seeking solutions to dwindling volunteers

August 10, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

On Shawn Kennedy's desk in the Traer Ambulance Service office is a calendar, much like you'd find in any office. Notes are written in for several dates, including a small vacation for Kennedy's family to visit their son, Cory, in Alabama. What sticks out about Kennedy's calendar are all the pink marks on dates that the Ambulance Director finds himself without volunteers for the Ambulance.

"We have a lot of open holes right now," Kennedy said. "Currently, we have two paid full-time and one part time person, but that's not enough to fill the schedule with two certifieds and a driver, which is how we like to roll."

This isn't a new problem, nor one Kennedy and the Traer Ambulance Service have alone. Even as close as Dysart, Ambulance Services are struggling to fill hours and get volunteers to either drive or become Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) for their communities.

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"Time is a struggle for people," Kennedy said. "Everybody's kids are in four to six different activities, so it's hard to break free from those commitments. The state's requirements for EMTs makes it harder to get through the classes than it used to be and there are continuing ed hours you have to do every year to keep your certification. People just don't volunteer like they used to 20 years ago when I started."

Kennedy began as an EMT in 1996 and later took his paramedic training before becoming the full-time director of Traer Ambulance seven months ago. Like the other full-time and part-time workers, Kennedy takes on extra shifts to cover the schedule and keep the Ambulance Service available in small-town Traer.

"It can cut down on family time, vacations, just the ability to leave town and do anything that's not ambulance related," Kennedy said. "It's usually 60 hours for us full-timers and more hours for our part-timers."

But Kennedy believes in several solutions for Traer Ambulance and other similar services. First, he hopes the state will make ambulance service an essential service like the Fire Department. According to Kennedy, not being an essential service limits funding and oppurtunity.

"If we had more funds, I think we could make the pot a little sweeter for people to dip into it," Kennedy said. "We've put ourselves out on social media, hired our part-timer, put up flyers asking for more help."

With the Winding Stairs Festival this week, Kennedy will pass out business cards on suckers to throw out to the crowd.

"It's a lot of word of mouth, seeing if your buddy can help out a little," Kennedy said. "Even when we get those people committed, it takes about nine months to a year to get through training and costs our service about $2,000. There's a financial risk to all of this because of someone goes through the EMT class and doesn't pass or decides they don't want to do it anymore, we are out of that money."

One thing that is helping is an EMT class being taught in Dysart later this month by their services' new director, Jule Scadden. According to Kennedy, two volunteers are committed to taking the class, with one strongly considering.

"It helps having that class so close and they don't have to go to Hawkeye or Marshalltown CC to save on drive time," Kennedy said. "That 35-40 minute drive adds on to the four-hour class you go to also, plus there's study time to consider."

Anyone interested in learning more about Traer Ambulance Services and what they can do to help can contact Shawn Kennedy at.

"Do you not want to give back to your community?" Kennedy said. "That was my reasoning when I first joined the department, to give something back. I was a new guy in town, only be here for two years back then. I really do like this little town. It's safe, a lot of great people here, and if I do something to make their lives a little easier why wouldn't I?"



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