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Brentwood EMS celebrates 35 years of serving neighbors

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

The vision of seven Brentwood volunteer firefighters creating a sustainable emergency medical services department for borough residents is an enduring one.

Brentwood Emergency Medical Services celebrates its 35th anniversary this fall. The festivities kicked off at an open house yesterday, Wednesday, and will continue with a recognition banquet Dec. 8. The founding organization started with a cubicle in the police department and a converted van for emergency calls and has since grown into a fleet of volunteers and full- and part-time staffers and three ambulances.

“It's hard to believe it's been 35 years,” said Joanne Cook, Brentwood EMS director. “We've been here 35 years and we plan on being here for another 35.”

Brentwood EMS was founded in 1977 by seven volunteer firefighters — Kenneth Lockhart, Rick Morrell, Mike Pace, Jake Kurtz, Bob Williams, Greg Winterhalter and Ken Peduzzi — who started the organization to provide better and more personalized care to residents, Joanne Cook said. The volunteers would ride along in the back of a police van, which only opened from the outside and had a divider from the driver, to assist in emergencies.

In a community such as Brentwood, which is one and a half square miles and has 30 miles of roads, a quick response time from a familiar face is the standard.

“Your response times are going to be better (and faster),” said Diane Cook, Joanne's sister and Brentwood EMS assistant director.

The organization sent its first members to paramedic school in 1982, held its first subscription drive in 1984, purchased its first ambulance in 1986, and moved to the current location in the municipal building after the public library moved to an adjacent location across Brownsville Road in 1992.

Plans to construct a new municipal building to give more space to the borough administration, police, code enforcement, public works and EMS is ongoing.

Brentwood Borough allocated about $52,000 to the EMS this year to operate the organization, Joanne Cook said. Annual subscription drives bring in a small amount, about 23 percent, from residents. Brentwood EMS paid for every facility upgrade from the first cubical to the current location in the municipal building.

Brentwood EMS holds several fundraisers throughout the year, including craft shows, a golf outing and raffles based on the Pennsylvania Lottery, Diane Cook said.

In addition to responding to emergencies, the organization hosts educational classes for residents and community and school district groups, and also assists in events such as church carnivals, holiday celebrations and athletic contests.

“It's nice to be involved in the community,” Joanne Cook said. “It's like a second family.”

Many of the volunteers and staffers at Brentwood EMS are people who bring in sisters, brothers, cousins and eventually the entire family.

Joanne Cook, a former nurse, joined the organization in 1979 at the suggestion of her brother. A year later, Diane Cook joined the organization, they said.

Still, the focus is on giving back to the community in which so many of the members live, said Frank Mihalovich, president of the Brentwood EMS board of directors.

“It's a good feeling from inside,” Mihalovich said. “I really enjoy helping out.”

Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at lvanwert@tribweb.com.

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