Westchester County distributes grants to help EMS volunteers pay for college

Three members of the Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps are among 50 in the county who have received school tuition grants to help keep them there as volunteers.

News 12 Staff

Aug 23, 2022, 12:41 AM

Updated 635 days ago

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Fire departments and EMS have struggled over the last decade to recruit and retain new volunteers to keep communities safe.
News 12's Jonathan Gordon was at the Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps with details on how the county is trying a different approach to change that.
Three members of the Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps are among 50 in the county who have received school tuition grants to help keep them there as volunteers.
At Ardsley-Secor Ambulance Corps, everyone is unpaid.
"We had some trouble recruiting before COVID. That's when we got creative and started to look at different types of programs," says Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps Cpt. Steven Greenfeld.
They are not alone.
Volunteer organizations are experiencing a critical need to find and keep new members.
Westchester launched the Higher Education Recruitment and Retention Opportunity or HERRO program as an incentive.
It is doling out $250,000 to more than 50 volunteer first responders since March.
Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corp member Noah Bonett is receiving among those getting up to $6,000 a year to pay for college tuition or student loans.
"It's given me the opportunity to be able to give back to the community and not feel the pressure financially of having to find other sources of income," says Bonett.
And it is paying off immediately - Ardsley-Secor responded to 94 emergency calls in July mostly by personnel 16 to 22 years old.
"A lot of that was on the backs of our college program because a lot of our regular volunteers go on vacation in July and these kids are home and ready to work," says Greenfeld.
According to Greenfeld, higher staffing levels directly translate to safer communities.
Eligible applicants must be active fire or EMS volunteers for one year, hit the minimum volunteer and training levels during the entire time they're in school and maintain a C grade point average.
State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick sponsored a bill that passed both houses that would allow local governments the option to give a tax break to volunteer firefighters and EMS workers, but Gov. Kathy Hochul has not signed it yet.


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