CEDAR GROVE, NJ — After being sidelined for the last nine months of 2020, the Cedar Grove Ambulance and Rescue Squad (CGARS) is back.

On Jan. 11, the rescue squad covered its first shift since last March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the volunteer unit to suspend operations after being a staple of the community since 1938.

"Although as a second crew for now, we are excited to continue the tradition of serving others in Cedar Grove as we have for the past 83 years, and hopefully well into the future," the CGARS said in a post on its Facebook page. "We are thankful to the township and our members, who were integral to allowing us to open our doors again. While this is a huge milestone since our squad’s unfortunate hiccup, it by no means signifies the end of the squad’s efforts to strengthen and fully rebuild. Please continue to spread our message so that we can continue to build membership and grow as a family so that we can one day return to being Cedar Grove’s primary ambulance service. Thank you!"

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Last week, the CGARS was officially welcomed back at the Township Committee meeting.

"Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had experienced a drop in membership," CGARS member Kenneth Clark said at the Township Committee meeting last week. "We had a lot of older members, and when the COVID-19 hit, a number of us came down with it. We had to shut down. We made a concerted effort to recruit new members. Instead of doing a fund drive this year, we did a membership drive, sending letters to the entire township. We took in 20 new members, and of those 20, 10 are in school as EMTs. The EMT program just started (back) up recently. I just want to thank you for allowing us to get back in service."

Cedar Grove Deputy Mayor Peter Tanella said, "You're saying thank you to us, but really it should be the other way around, we (should be) saying thank you to you and the other members here. Eighty-three years of service to Cedar Grove, I don't know what else to say to that other than thank you. I am so glad we were able to work something out to keep the squad alive and thriving in town. You're always there and you're always a presence."

Kerry Peterson, the mayor of Cedar Grove, is a registered nurse who was, herself, a member of the Cedar Grove Ambulance and Rescue Squad as a teen.

"I know it's been a long road; it's been a difficult year," Peterson said. "The history of the rescue squad in this town is so deep. The roots run very deep and it was worth the work on everyone's part to get up and running. 

"So much more goes on at the squad other than answering calls and serving the community. It's a family. There's just so much history. It's really one of the backbones of this town."