AMHERST – Here’s something you might not have known: The St. John Ambulance celebrated its 900th anniversary about five years ago.
The local division isn’t quite that old, of course. Amherst’s chapter began in 1939. Their divisional superintendent offered a reason why the first aid organization has remained relevant through nine centuries worldwide, and more than seven decades in Cumberland County.
“I guess it’s people helping people,” said Cindy Bird, who’s been with St. John for about 20 years.
Bird gave the example of a first aider she knows who stepped up to the plate on a commercial flight when no doctor was available to render aid to a passenger. And Bird said she keeps a kit in her car in case she comes across someone needing help.
She became involved with the group after reading in this newspaper that the local division was in danger of closing. The experience fascinated her.
“Just how easy it was…to make such a vast difference,” she said.
One of the tools the local division has available at events – a tool that could potentially make a vast difference – are AED devices: portable paddles to treat cardiac arrest. The units were paid for, in part, with significant contributions from the United Way.
The medical first responders that typically attend public functions are volunteers. Donations from the groups that request their presence are appreciated, but St. John is a charity not a business.
The St. John-trained first aiders do not have the training of paramedics.
“We’re very happy to see them show up,” said Bird.
St. John Ambulance is perhaps best known for doing first aid training.
“We have two trainers (right now),” she said, although additional trainers – unaffiliated with the division – exist in the community.
The division no longer has a permanent rented home. They rent space for meetings.
“Our group is pretty small right now,” she said.
The money they receive from United Way is critical to their continued existence in Amherst.
“We wouldn’t have the funds that we need…(without them).”
This is the second in a weekly series of articles profiling United Way member agencies.