JAVAC’s growth hurt the organization

To my best recollection I convey the following to you concerning JAVAC. In 1970 JAVAC was formed by concerned citizens of Johnstown. Their first ambulance call was in the beginning of 1971. They did not have much money or equipment. What they had was through donations and fundraising. Emergency calls went through the fire department which contacted the “crew chief” who then phoned the other crew members. Response times were long. There were no portable radios. There were no crew quarters. There was a place to home the ambulance and that was at the fire department.

When donations increased, portable radios were purchased and homed at Dave and Bea Bowers home. Twice daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. people came to the Bowers home to exchange radios. Their home was always open. Dinner was always interrupted.

A few years later the fire department gave JAVAC a small room to use for meetings and the exchange of radios. Trainings were now being held on site. Soon later a second bay was given to JAVAC so they could home a second ambulance that they were saving up for. Volunteers staffed JAVAC 24/7/365. Many times there was a second back up crew.

In the 1970s and 1980s we had to earn what we had. We had to spend wisely. I remember fighting to purchase a blood pressure cuff. Then Johnstown Hospital closed and their foundation was born. Yearly donations from the foundation mainly went for education. I myself benefited from the donations, I was able to become one of four first female paramedics in the county.

Over the years some felt that JAVAC outgrew the meeting room and two bays at the fire department. There were no bills while being housed there. The city took care of us. Why rock the boat?

A small group felt that we needed our own place along with bunk rooms for people to sleep. We were now getting volunteers from out of town who needed a place to stay. Hence the land was purchased and the building built that you see today. The bay had an extra spot so a third ambulance was purchased.

After moving into the new building, membership started dropping off and people did not want to ride weekends. With increased training and certification, more continuing education credit was required. People had a hard time working full time jobs, riding on the ambulance, and keeping up on continuing ed. Members slipped away. There was no incentive.

With bills increasing in the new building, three ambulances, and fewer volunteers, JAVAC started billing insurance companies for reimbursements. Members continued to dwindle so the decision was made to start bringing in paid members. Now we have volunteers versus paid and noses were bent, and rightfully so.

So how did JAVAC get into such a mess? How about always trying to go bigger and better, the new building, increased bills, and paid members. We did better with a single room at the fire department. Just my 30 year opinion.

JENNIFER L. MILLER

Johnstown