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A solid foundation for Island health care: Ambulance nonprofit keeps funds flowing

It was one of those terrible moments every parent fears. Not just that Arden Ward’s son, 4-year-old Tucker, had fallen and struck his chin on the edge of a coffee table, but the real fear was when the wound wouldn’t stop bleeding.

Remembering the frightening incident that happened one evening five years ago at a friend’s house, Ms. Ward said she knew “this isn’t going to need a Band-Aid. It’s going to need a hospital.”

Soon after a 911 call, a Shelter Island Emergency Services ambulance arrived and headed for Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.

From beginning to end, the EMS crew “took good care of Tucker,” Ms. Ward  said, adding, with a laugh, “and took good care of me.”

The Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation, along with EMS volunteers had “a show and tell” at the IGA Saturday morning, May 22, said Jim Preston, chairman of the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation.

One purpose of the event at the IGA, was to let visitors, vacationers and new residents of the Island “know how to get health care in the middle of the night on Shelter Island,” Mr. Preston said. He noted that he’d worked with the ambulance service for 20 years and never once had to wait for a ferry to get off the Island and to a hospital for an emergency. The ferry companies have crews on duty waiting for a call during the hours regular service has ceased, and are ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Mr. Preston said that the time from an emergency call coming in to arriving at a hospital “rivals that of ambulance services in urban areas.”

The Foundation is a separate entity from the EMS. It’s a nonprofit providing finances to the all-volunteer service in multiple ways, including training of volunteers and purchasing equipment such as ambulances, and a state-of-the-art sterilization machine that was purchased three years ago for $8,000.

“That came in handy,” Mr. Preston said, with pointed understatement, noting that the crews were set up to keep ambulances and equipment sterilized when the pandemic struck.

The Foundation has also spent $500,000 for two ambulances in recent years.

It’s a solid resource to use when municipal funds are slow to be employed, Mr. Preston said, with all money coming in the form of donations and special events, such as the Shelter Island Cricket Club’s enduring support.

All donations are tax deductible and stay on Shelter Island. To donate, mail contributions to Shelter Island Foundation, PO Box 547, Shelter Island, NY 11964. The Foundation also suggests that donations be given in memorial of a loved one, or through matching grants with your employer or other benefit/charity organizations.

A new ambulance is scheduled to be put in service on the Island within the first couple of months of 2022, Mr. Preston said.

As Ms. Ward said about her experience with the Shelter Island EMS crews and the Foundation, “Their work is amazing. Just off the charts.”