WARREN, NJ - Mayor Angie Devanney swore in the 2019-2020 officers of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad on Saturday, January 12 at their annual installation and awards dinner dance held this year at Forrest Lodge in Warren.

Incoming officers include: Ori Sternberg as Chief, Allie Deegan as Deputy Chief, Nathan Lee as First LT Training, Joe Plocinski as Second LT Equipment/Supplies, Marc Schnitzer as Second LT Vehicles, Joe Savino as President, Steve Kirsch as Vice President, Monica Poulos as Recording Secretary, Arlene Burnett as Secretary Corresponding, Michele Young as Treasurer, and Andy Damato, Joe Plocinski and Toni Ann Gestone as Trustee.

The following awards were presented:

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Nathan Lee [CPR instructor and Training Lt.] was the recipient of 2018 Chief's award. He covered 991 weekday hours and 200 weekend hours to a total of 1,191 hours over all. He responded to 89 calls.  "On top of it, that person has agreed to help with everything he was asked to - from equipment to vehicles, from building to training. And all of that was done without fanfare, no drama and no nonsense - He is truly the epitome of a volunteer," said Chief Ori Sternberg.

Jane Brown, an administrative member, was the recipient of the 2018 President's award. The award is given to recognize a member for their dedication and achievements. -- Brown [and her family] has dedicated countless hours of service over the years -- she is active in the squad's Relay for Life Committee, 75th Year Committee, Plant Sale Committee, Training Committee, Publicity Committee, CPR Classes, as well as volunteered at many other community events. "Her enthusiasm to volunteer is contagious -- her husband Ken and son Tim volunteer their time," said President Joe Savino.  

Steven Kirsch received the Training Award. This award goes to a squad member who has outstanding attendance to the squad's Skills and Drills sessions, as well as, "attendance in training sessions outside of the squad, but also for their dedication to passing on that knowledge to their crew and other members of the squad so we can become the best EMTs possible," said outgoing First Lt. of Training Toni Ann Gestone. -- "For the third year in a row, the award goes to Steve Kirsch." 

Top Hours Awards were given to: Nicole Pirone, Top Co-Cadet Award, Zoe O'Halloran, Top Co-Cadet Award; Nicole Segalini, Top College Award; Peter Illis, second runner up Top Associate Runner Up Award,  Benoit Minguet, Top Associate Award; and Joe Savino, Top Back up calls; Total Hours -- Jim Cline [third runner up], Toni Ann Gestone [second runner up], and Nathan Lee [first]. 

Service Award were given to Meik Skoss, 20 years; Rich Bowers, 40 years; Howard Meyers, 45 years.

Jim Cline, after 17 years of service, was recognized for his retirement from the squad.

Rescue Squad President Joe Savino welcomed all in attendance and recognized Mayor Angie Devanney and her husband George, as well as members of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Fire Department including Fire Chief Anthony Padovano, President Adam Uanis and Vice President Mauro Iarussi. He thanked the Fire Department and Police Department for being partners and friends and being with them on their call.  

Savino recognized  "treasured" lifetime rescue squad members that were in attendance: Joseph Federico, Don Gorny, Sherri Pawlenko, Jackie Testa, Dan Gara and his wife Bonnie, who are both past members, and Karen and Rich Bowers.

In attendance were partners and neighbors from the Long Hill, Mountainside, New Providence, Warren, and Scotch Plains Rescue Squads. "Thank you for your partnership and for your support," said Savino.  

He also thank Bobbie Peer for helping to connect the squad with TAPinto readers. "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to teach the value of volunteering with helping us with our recruits," said Savino.

He acknowledged the Entertainment Committee -- Steve Kirsch, Michele Young and Carolyn Sayre -- for organizing the event, as well as, Howie Meyers, 75th Anniversary Committee Chairperson, who help organize the 75th Year Celebration, Health Fair and Time Capsule [which will be opened on the 100th anniversary].

"To all our members, thank you for yet another year of dedication and service, with out you none of this would be possible," said Savino.

Joe Plocinski provided the invocation. A special memoriam was observed for Kay Valenti, who passed away in 2018. Valenti had been a member for nearly 19 years and served as president. 

Chief Ori Sternberg reflected on the past year and thanked the volunteers that made it a special year. "As of today, we have 70 members. includes cadets, students that are away in school most of the year, associates, auxiliary members and of course regular members," said Sternberg. The squad responded to 780 calls and provided 95.4 percent coverage for Berkeley Heights. The 60 riding members volunteered over 23,700 hours of coverage -- on average 400 hours per person. "On top of it, this team covered about 40 community events - football games, fairs, races, town activities - you name it." 

The squad onboarded 12 new members, purchased new ambulance, implemented electronic charting, implemented mentorship program, and installed a new digital sign to name a few accomplishments.

He thanked the volunteers. "Thank you for making an impact with every patient you touched and every person you helped. You do it without compensation and without benefits -- but with the shear knowledge and dedication the two hours sleep you missed or the two hours your family missed you, you made someone's life better even for a short period of time."

He recognized the families, partners, and spouses. "Volunteers, we couldn't do it without you," said Sternberg.  

Among the many volunteers and the 2018 officers recognized, he gave special recognition to Ali Deegan, Deputy Chief and Operations Officer. "Allie was my right hand and sometimes my left hand as well and my backup when I disappeared for business trips." He said that she took on the electronic charts implementation, onboarding new members and scheduling 60 riding members, running the cadet program and she is responsible for the 95.4 percent coverage. "A true scheduling magician," said Sternberg.

He also recognized squad president Joe Savino. "I couldn't have asked for a better partner to deal with everything that we had on our plate."

The following members received their Initial EMT certification: Peter Illis, Emily Matrone, Michele Young, Jessica Moran, and Carolyn Sayre.

Three scholarships to student members were awarded to Michaila Kaufman, Catherine Dougherty, and Amanda Boland.

Peggy Dendinger was celebrated with the Overlook council Award for excellence in EMT work. 

Outgoing First Lt. of Training, Toni Ann Gestone, recognized Nathan Lee, Sue Myers and Bill Schultz [who also provided the free community CPR classes] for their training and CPR instruction. These instructors spend many hours setting classes and training and maintaining records. They also provide CPR instruction to the Fire Department and Police Department.

Training needs to be done on a continuous basis throughout EMT life, said Gestone. "First responders know that there is no such thing as a text book call. At times, when we arrive on a scene, we find something totally different than what we were dispatched for -- so as EMTs we've learned we need to be ready for anything and everything." --  The squad holds monthly minimum training sessions -- Skills and Drills -- "We spend a lot of time having squad members practice different scenarios. These Skills and Drills are arranged and organized by our training committee. To the members of this committee [Allie Deegan, Bill Schultz, Joe Plocinski, Nate Lee, Gerry Peyton, Nicole Segalini and Peter Illis] a very big thank you, said Gestone. 


About the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad: As a volunteer organization, they never charge for a ride to the hospital or any medical supplies they use. The BHVRS is funded primarily through tax-deductible donations. All donations are used to purchase such items as supplies and equipment and to support the objectives of the Squad. 

The Squad always needs volunteers, both medical and auxiliary. If you are interested in joining or would like additional information, click here