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Nation’s First Volunteer EMS Needs Support

Roanoke city’s only volunteer rescue squad serves citizens.

Roanoke Emergency Medical Services has one and only one volunteer squad, which also happens to be the very first emergency volunteer group established in the United States. Volunteer first responders are not as common as in the past and this one is appealing to the community to help with their annual fundraising campaign which is held during the month of December.

Occasionally the community is a bit perplexed as to why there is a need for fundraising since all the other squads are funded by the city and their staffs are paid. According to REMS Business Administrator Sherrie Agee, “there is a greater volunteer presence in outlying counties.” This may be because those locales are less likely to be able to fund them.  In Roanoke, they have slowly been replaced, leaving the one surviving volunteer squad to grapple with how it will continue in the future.

The idea for coordinated rescue was born of a tragedy witnessed in the beginning of last century: “On a May afternoon in 1909, a boy on the bank of the Roanoke River watched helplessly while two men struggled in the water trying to reach their overturned canoe.”  The men didn’t survive, and the young boy, Julian S. Wise, was so impacted by what he saw, in 1928 he established the squad now known as Roanoke Emergency Medical Services.

Today in Roanoke, the volunteer squad is made up of 30 people who are holding full time jobs plus making the time to work with the EMS group. Agee says “we have a good group here – these people are here because they want to be here; they really have a heart for it.”

REMS recently sent out their annual fund drive letter and Agee says, “We always get a lot of citizens who don’t know who we are and what we do – we want them to know we are legitimate.”

While it is true that the city charges for each 911 call, Roanoke Emergency Medical Services, Inc. is a non-profit volunteer organization and they do not directly receive any portion of the funds that are charged to cover EMS services.

The City of Roanoke provides an annual allocation to help with their financial needs, although it is provided with the understanding that this funding will supplement the donations given by the citizens – it is not enough to provide total financial support.

That’s where the citizens come in. On behalf of REMS, “We are very grateful for the wonderful citizens who donate to our organization during the fund drive as well as those who donate throughout the year.”

For more information or to donate, contact Sherrie Agee at 540-344-6256 or visit the website

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