It didn’t look like it always does, but it still worked. The Chatham Emergency Squad usually celebrates its annual installation of officers and recognition of service anniversaries all together, over dinner. This year’s virtual event took some creative thinking to plan but 76 active, on-leave, auxiliary and life members gathered via Zoom on Sunday night, many with guests, to celebrate what was certainly one of the toughest years in the Squad’s 85 years. 

Captain Mike Lemons started off the night and set the tone for a night of mutual appreciation for a job well done in a particularly challenging year. “We have a culture that asks for and receives far more than just working a regular shift once a week. Your contributions to the overall life of the squad are critical - working on committees, covering special events, keeping your education and skills up to date, responding to duty crew out calls… are not only appreciated by your fellow members, but are part of the secret of how we remain not only viable in this time of struggling volunteer organizations, but which helps us to remain strong, healthy, and highly respected.”

Recognized as new officers effective January 1, 2021 were Captain, Mike Lemons; Operations Lieutenant, Nicole DiMaggio; Training Lieutenant, Joanne Howden; Equipment Lieutenant, Craig Alperowitz; President, Steve Davenport; Personnel VP, Robin Hoppe; Facilities VP, Tom Boyle; Finance VP, Tom Patterson; Secretary, Carole Wilmot and Communications VP, Evan Skinner. 

Particularly meaningful was the special recognition of the four officers who took on the role of Squad safety in the face of COVID: Steve Davenport, then Captain; Mike Lemons, then Operations Lt and Nicole DiMaggio, then Training Lt, for sourcing adequate PPE to keep every member confident and safe and for supplying RN and paid EMT members with sufficient PPE to keep them safe at their paying jobs as well. Jim Martin, then Equipment Lt, was recognized for the yeoman effort he put into identifying, securing, distributing and training members on the use of new Sonim radios for intraSquad communication. These push-to-talk radios proved to be an invaluable resource for members on scene who needed to communicate with their crewmates outside. 

As President Davenport introduced a key part of the night’s ceremony – the celebration of nine members’ service anniversaries - he spoke about "the long established culture of excellence and above all, the committed service of the members". Recognized with service milestones were: Marcelino Guerrero, 5 years; Brian Hernandez, 5 years; Robin Hoppe, 5 years; Abigail Maddi, 5 years; John Merwin, 5 years; Jeff Stanton, 5 years; Caitlin Sweeney, 5 years and Matt Palmer, 10 years. Of these eight members, one is a current officer, five have been or are currently Crew Chiefs and two recently completed two years terms as officers. 

With a special video montage of photographs taken through the years, Cathy Warbrick’s 25-year anniversary received special recognition. Appearing with her Auxiliary-member husband, Peter, Cathy was celebrated by former crew mates from her Thursday night crew. Past President Marty Sechehay spoke for many, saying “…in addition to her EMT skills, everyone on the Squad and all the patients she cared for recognized her sparkling personality and positive nature and were encouraged by her.”

Emceed by Vinnie and Vicki Brand of the Stress Factory Comedy Club www.stressfactory.com, working with Kyra Bowie, virtual event producer from www.bowieenterprises.com, the night included plaudits via video by Chatham Borough Mayor Thad Kobylarz and by NJ-11 Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and live by Chatham Township Mayor Tracy Ness. Special thanks were offered to the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad who responded to calls in Chatham for several hours before and during the event so that all Chatham Emergency Squad members could have the evening to celebrate. Additional thanks were offered to local vendors who supported the night with donations or discounts including TMWard Coffee, D’Licious, USA Wine Traders Club and Villa Pizza.

The Chatham Emergency Squad is an all-volunteer organization funded nearly exclusively by donations. In 2020 the Squad responded to 1179 emergency calls in Chatham Township and Chatham Borough and provided mutual aid to the neighboring communities on occasion. The Chatham Emergency Squad never charges for its services. In a non-COVID year, the Squad provides stand-by support for community events, such as the Chatham Turkey Trot, the Fishawack Festival, and school sports events. The Squad also hosts blood drives, including one scheduled on March 6 at Ogden Memorial Presbyterian Church, and provides free CPR training to residents, teachers, coaches, school crossing guards and emergency personnel, including fire and police. To learn more, to donate or to volunteer, visit www.chathamemergencysquad.org