CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall is in danger of losing its St. John Ambulance service.
Officials with the charity that provide first-aid responders at local fairs and sporting events told Seaway News Tuesday the branch could close before the end of the year if more revenue isn’t found.
“The next three to six months are critical,” said Michele Brunette, board chair for the local St. John branch, which has its office on Sydney Street in Cornwall. “It’s quite upsetting because the volunteer groups are in such a good place right now.”
Decision-makers with the agency will sit down with Cornwall people in June to go over the books, and again three months later to determine in the local branch can remain viable.
In that time Brunette said a business plan is being put in place to augment revenue streams and increase fundraising activities.
There are about 20 first-aiders who attend community events through St. John Ambulance, and are ready to help in the event of an emergency. There are also 10 therapy dog teams that visit shut-ins in the area through St. John.
Brunette said the agency is often hamstrung because it’s a charity that must operate a business component to stay viable. Some organizers of community events that employ the St. John Ambulance Service provide donations – but it’s not always enough.
“Unfortunately some organizers will give a little bit, but we still end up paying some funds from our own pockets. And some won’t give us anything,” she said. “We spend money in order to help them. So we’re hoping people will recognize that and help us to recover our costs. We’re not in the business of making money…but people have to help us for what it costs to put the ambulance on the road and put uniforms on the back of volunteers and pay for equipment.”
St. John’s also faces increased competition for the first-aid instructions it provides to local residents.
“The bottom line is always important so companies will go for the best bang for their buck,” she said. “They want the class to be as short and concise as possible and they want to satisfy their requirements. St. John Ambulance is a huge brand. We’ve built our reputation on the quality of our instructors.
“There’s a cost associated with that. It costs a lot of money to keep the high quality. It’s the same for everybody. So it’s very difficult for us to compete price-wise with the courses and shorten our classes.”
The local branch of St. John recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.
About St. John Ambulance (provided by Kisa Lanctot)
St. John Ambulance is a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to the service of others. In Cornwall, volunteers have been active in this mission for 75 years. As Canada’s standard for excellence in First Aid, CPR, AED and Health Promotion services,
St. John Ambulance plays an integral role in our community.
Since 1940, our Medical First Responders have volunteered at community events throughout the S.D.&G. area. Since most venues must provide first aid coverage for their patrons, many organizers depend on St. John Ambulance in order to hold their sporting and cultural events. St. John is a familiar and reliable presence at county fairs (Avonmore, Maxville, Williamstown, Newington), speedway races, high school athletic events and even those held by other charities. We support educational programs for local student groups, Cubs, Brownies, and participate in special celebrations such as Canada Day and in Remembrance Day ceremonies. Our volunteers are highly skilled first aid providers who dedicate countless hours of their personal time so they can serve the community. In addition, they must participate in on-going training throughout the year in order to maintain high proficiency levels in the application of life-saving techniques and in the operation of various types of equipment.
In 1992, St. John (Cornwall) welcomed the addition of a new volunteer division, the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program. This program has grown to become a recognized leader in Animal-Assisted intervention. Our Therapy Dog volunteers reach out to hundreds of people every week, bringing comfort and companionship to members of the community who are sick and lonely, who reside in long term care facilities or who are in hospital. Handlers and their pets also travel to Maxville, Lancaster and other small communities on a regular basis. The St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program is continuously adapting to new opportunities in health and community care, expanding to mental health facilities, emergency shelters, and through the “Paws 4 Stories” child reading initiative in libraries and schools.
St. John Ambulance, through the Therapy Dog Program and the Medical First Responder Unit, is always in need of your support in order to continue its role in Community Service. We rely on our own fund-raising and our first aid training programs in order to enable our volunteers to continue their work in our area. Funding you provide remains here to support the services which assist local people. Your donation will support:
– Ongoing training for our Medical First Responders,
– The replacement and maintenance of first aid supplies and equipment needed for local public events,
– Emergency preparedness in the event of natural disaster, in tandem with other local emergency response teams and relief agencies,
– The maintenance of Mobile First Aid Posts, ambulance-type vehicles which are vital in helping us provide on-site emergency patient care; renewal of this fleet ( currently 2 vehicles) is due if we are to continue a safe and reliable service at many events throughout the year,
– Expansion of the Therapy Dog Program to cover more sectors requiring help and to meet a greatly increased demand for our teams,
– The establishment of local evaluation services for Therapy Dogs.