Westchester County distributes grants to help EMS volunteers pay for college tuition

Fire departments and EMS have struggled over the past decade to recruit and retain new volunteers to keep communities safe.

News 12’s Jonathan Gordon was with Ardsley Secor’s Volunteer Ambulance Corps detailing how the county is trying a different approach to change that.

Three members of the Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps are among the 50 in the county to receive school tuition grants to stay there as volunteers.

Everyone is unpaid at the Ardsley-Secor Ambulance Corps.

“We had trouble recruiting before COVID, and then we started getting creative and looking at different kinds of programs,” says Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps Cpt. Stephen Greenfeld.

they are not alone.

Volunteer organizations experience a critical need to find and retain new members.

Westchester launched the Higher Education Recruitment and Retention Opportunities or HERRO program as an incentive.

Since March, we’ve donated $250,000 to more than 50 volunteer first responders.

A member of the Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corp, Noah Bonett receives up to $6,000 a year for college tuition and student loans.

“We were given the opportunity to give back to the community and never felt financially pressured to find other sources of income,” says Bonett.

Ardsley-Secor responded to 94 emergency calls in July, most of them from employees between the ages of 16 and 22.

“A lot of the regular volunteers are on vacation in July and these kids are home and ready to go to work, so a lot of that is due to the college programs,” says Greenfeld.

According to Greenfeld, increased staffing levels translate directly into safer communities.

Eligible applicants must be active fire or EMS volunteers for one year, achieve minimum volunteer and training levels, and maintain an average of C grade points throughout their time at school.

State Senator Elijah Reichlin Melnick has passed a bill in both houses that would allow local governments the option to give tax breaks to volunteer firefighters and EMS workers, but Gov. Kathy Hochol has not yet signed it.

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