Penn Yan Ambulance honors service; marks 40 years

Gwen Chamberlain
The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to all the ambulance workers who responded to the July 19, 2011 fatal accident in Benton.

A lot of lives have been saved by volunteers in the Penn Yan area over the last 40 years.

Many of the men and women who have answered countless calls for help since Jan. 1, 1972 gathered Saturday evening in Benton to honor the services provided by the volunteers and supporters of the Penn Yan Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Corps President Wayne Marsh opened the evening’s program with brief comments, noting that “2011 was a very active, very trying year for Penn Yan Ambulance and other agencies around the community.”

While the purpose of the annual awards dinner is to recognize the service given by various members, this year’s event also marked the service’s 40th anniversary, and four of the corps’ original members were on hand to help celebrate the occassion.

Fred and Sally Thomas, Alberta Henries and Charlie Leach led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the evening, and then the Thomases and Leach each helped cut the anniversary cake.

Master of Ceremonies Steve Ovens explained that in 1971 the Junior Chamber of Commerce took on the mission to begin an ambulance service since the previous provider — a taxi company — was discontinuing service on Dec. 31, 1971.

About 40 volunteers made up the original group that was trained in Basic or Advanced First Aid.

Calvin Bakstrom was the first president, and Bob Flynn was the first financial director. Penn Yan Ambulance officially went into service at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 1972 equipped with a 1967 Oldsmobile and 1969 Pontiac.

The first call came in at 3:45 a.m. for a woman on North Flat Street who had fallen on ice and injured her back. That year, Penn Yan Ambulance responded to 650 calls.

The service has grown to an agency with three ambulances, an Advanced Life Support car and a service area that stretches from Penn Yan to Benton, Bellona, Branchport, Dresden, Himrod, Keuka Park and a small portion of Potter.

A number of awards were presented during the program, including:

• VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: All the volunteers who responded to the July 19 multiple fatality accident in Benton were honored. Marsh, who watched the event unfold on national TV from a military post half-way across the U.S. said, “You made the Finger Lakes proud that day. People all over the world watched you that day.”Included in the honor were: Mike Moss, Steve Ovens, Brandon Ilicki, Amanda Moss, Alex Kuehne, Carmen Moss, Cody Burnett, Brandon Palmisano, George Burnett, Beka Catlin, Ken Zimmerman, Anthony Nieves, Grace Catlin, Jack Strickland, Rachel Stoltzfus, Dave Parkhurst, Robert James, Mahlon Hurst, Brian Laursen, Beth Fahnestock, Ed Wedge, Chris Warriner and Brian Murphy.

• DR. MARK SCHER SPIRIT AWARD, which recognizes caring, compassion and concern, was presented to Dom Fonte.

• PENN YAN AMBULANCE 100 CLUB, which recognizes volunteers who respond to more than 100 calls: Amanda Moss, 100; Todd Coon, 101; George Burnett, 102; Steve Ovens, 106; Brian Laursen, 109; Brad Ovens, 111; Mike Moss, 128; John Hanson, 130; Alex Kuehne, 133; Carmen Moss, 160; Brian Murphy, 175 and Wayne Marsh, 189.

• PRESIDENT’S AWARD, a special award given to New York State Police Officer Don Wills for his work at a drowning call in Seneca Lake.

• MUTUAL AID AGENCY OF THE YEAR: Finger Lakes Ambulance.

• COMMUNITY SUPPORT AWARD: Mercy Flight Central.

• LIFETIME MEMBERSHIPS were presented to Jim Reed, Dick Heinonen, and Jim and Loujane Johns.

• YEARS OF SERVICE PINS were awarded to Ed Wedge, 35 years; Michael Moss, 25 years; Michael J. Healy, Carmen Moss and Jack Strickland, 20 years; Todd Coon, Chris Warriner and Steve Ovens, 10 years and Aaron Parkhurst and Sondra Warriner, five years.

The group celebrated the 40th anniversary with a special cake created by Lee Ann Ovens, who re-created the Corps emblem from scratch on the sheet cake.

Nancy Scher (left) and Michael Moss (right) presented the Mark Scher Award to Dom Fonte.