One of the Alton Volunteer Emergency Corps’ emergency response boats in the parking lot of Alton Square Mall.
ALTON — The Alton Volunteer Emergency Corps will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at its headquarters, 2400 Bloomer Drive.
Corps Commander Ed Drach and his members are eagerly looking forward to playing host to the community in an effort to recruit volunteer rescue workers and educate the public about the equipment they use and the valuable services they provide to the Riverbend.
All of AVEC’s resources will be on hand for the public to look over: boats, rescue trucks, an ambulance and other specialized items/equipment. People will also be invited to take photos and let their children explore, there will be plenty of handouts and safety literature available. Members will also be on hand to speak with people interested in volunteering with their agency performing rescue work or emergency service support. There will also be pumpkin decorating and lots of treats for children.
“We always enjoy getting a chance to meet the community and to show them what our organization does,” AVEC Treasurer Tracy Drach said.
AVEC has been providing a critical service to the Riverbend community (and even assisting Missouri agencies) since 1948. They provide search and rescue services on land and water, emergency medical service and first aid details at special events, livery/body transport details, and assistance to police and fire departments. They also provide emergency service support to local governments, such as the agreement they have established with the village of Godfrey for disaster response and recovery assistance.
Chris Sichra, Godfrey’s Public Safety Administrator, vouches for the organization’s reliability.
“AVEC has been such a valuable asset to our community year after year, assisting our fire protection district with search and rescue resources,” he said. “They’re ready to assist us during disasters and have proved their worth participating with us during our disaster drills, like our full-scale tornado exercise last spring. They also regularly help at our Parks and Recreation events by providing first aid/EMS service support details at major annual functions. We know we can always count on them.”
A troubling national trend has been observed over the past several years as volunteer agencies have seen their numbers declining because of the economy. Many people who used to get involved in volunteering now find it necessary to get a second or even third job just to make ends meet. Agencies that need rescue workers and firefighters are often hit the hardest as those positions go unfilled.
The goal is to get more of the younger generation involved, as that volunteer experience and networking opportunity (regularly assisting and working around career fire, police and EMS personnel) often leads directly to job experience that looks great on a resumé and may potentially direct that young volunteer to a career as a first responder later in life.
“Those years of experience working with AVEC and GFPD while in my late teens and early 20s had a huge positive impact on my career,” said Sichra, who works both as a full-time St Louis city firefighter since the ‘90s and also serves as Godfrey’s public safety administrator and deputy ESDA director for emergency management.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now without that experience,” he said.
Those interested in becoming a search and rescue or water rescue volunteer can contact Commander Ed Drach by phone at (618) 462-2202, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the open house event.
For information about the open house, contact Drach at (618) 462-2202.