By Steve Sears
The Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad has been a backbone of support to its community for quite some time, providing first aid, medical assistance, and rescue operations for the township and surrounding communities.
For 75 years, in fact, and that meant a special celebration was in order. David Spera, who is well into his second tour of duty as Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad President, says, “We were established in 1943 and we celebrated our 75th year on Sun., Sept. 23. We had live music and Outback Steak house donated all the food and proceeds to the event. Police and Fire Departments and hospital personnel in our area came and celebrated with us.”
The Open House was held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the squad’s Downtown First Aid Building. Visitors met crew members, viewed equipment, enjoyed desserts and light refreshments, and asked questions and were interviewed about volunteering.
A well worth it celebration.
It is interesting to note that, although the First Aid Squad bears the locale identifier of “Wayne,” the crew of 160 doesn’t hesitate to venture beyond township lines. They serve Wayne – which is a myriad of busy roadways including Routes 23, 46, and 80—but they also serve outside the township.
Therefore, as in early days when the township was served by neighboring communities, the Wayne squad now serves other towns. It’s always been about service.
Consider the genesis in a less populated area than today. The Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad had in 1943 a humble beginning. Back then, ambulance service was provided by the Paterson Hospitals, the Cedar Grove Rescue Squad, Little Falls Eagle Rescue, and the Pompton Lakes First Aid Squad. The catalyst that forced a small group of concerned citizens to form their own means of service was one tragic, cold week in February 1942. This week sorrowed the township with five traffic accident deaths, two more in a fire, and one when a person was struck by a train.
The Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad was formed in 1943 and fielded its first call Sept. 1, 1944. Squad headquarters were located in the Oak Street home of Wayne Police Department Captain, William Taylor, who served as the first squad’s first president. In those early days, members answered ambulance calls from Taylor’s home and responded to those calls in a recycled hearse, a 1942 Buick purchased from a Chicago, Illinois undertaker. Between September and December 1944, 40 calls were responded to. The number currently is more than 4,000 calls per year.
With their first aid squad now formed, the Wayne team now aided calls in Totowa and Lincoln Park until, like Wayne, both were able to form their own squads. In 1950 the squad moved into temporary headquarters inside Town Hall on Boonton Road, and soon after moved into its own newly-constructed building for the first time on Taylor Road.
Shortly thereafter in 1954 a second vehicle, a 1952 Cadillac, joined the service fleet, and in 1954 the original Buick was replaced with another Cadillac.
Growth continued. In 1956 a second building was built on Hamburg Turnpike, giving the squad representation in both ends of Wayne. In 1968, women became valuable members of the squad, and after the 1973 formation of a Youth Squad, youths aged 16 through 18 could join the squad in an auxiliary role.
After the Hamburg Turnpike building was destroyed by fire in 1992, it was rebuilt to better serve the squad and community.
Spera has served as president from 2008 to 2011, and again from 2015 until now. He is in charge of all administrative functions of the squad, and all public relations.
“I keep the lights on,” he says.
Spera says that the current squad consists of 160 individuals on its roster, and about 120 are EMTs. However, there are additional folks involved.
“We have exempt members; kind of like retirement, but still very much associated with the squad,” he said.”
Spera describes the schedule the squad members follow: “Most of our volunteers are on a set schedule; we volunteer on a specific day, and our shifts are 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1 p.m. to 7 a.m., or the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. overnight shift. Our day members ride once a week and our night members every other week.”
What would Spera like township residents to know most about the Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad?
“That we are 100 percent volunteer and it’s made up of your neighbors,” he says. “We are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The squad never gets a day off.”
The squad is very community minded in a charitable sense Spera notes.
“We are involved with the Wayne Rotary 200 Club, but mostly it’s about other groups involving the first aid squad,” he says.
Wayne Lincoln, Spera explains, had planned a car show where the proceeds will be given to the squad.
In 1943, the Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad counted on the community, businesses and citizens for their support, and time hasn’t changed that fact. The First Aid Squad does have two fund drives a year, in the fall and spring, and this year’s support request commenced in early October.
The Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad has its own creed that it lives and serves by each and every time a call is received: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it. For I shall not pass this way again.”
If interested in volunteering for the Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad visit www.waynefas.com/membership-faq for more information.
“The best way to support (the Wayne Township Memorial First Aid Squad) is financially and, of course, joining us and helping us,” concludes Spera.