SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Rebecca (Becky) Lugara initially got involved with the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad through the squad auxiliary. The auxiliary was started 11 years ago by Jennifer Speth, the eldest daughter of long-time squad members Deborah and Robert Speth. It has been instrumental in supporting the rescue squad through fundraising and by taking part in community events.
Becky was 50 when she joined. Her then 16-year-old son Dave was already a volunteer on the squad and was studying to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
“I’d grown up in Scotch Plains and had an allegiance to the town (although I now live in Cranford),” said Becky. “I also wanted to support my son.”
When she began attending squad auxiliary events and met people on the squad (some of whom she’d known since childhood, such as President Dan Sullivan and Chief Carolyn Sorge), she found them very welcoming.
“I saw the selfless work that they did, and I realized that this would be the perfect time for me to seek out my high school ‘dream’ [of joining the squad.]” Plus, my son was coaching me on, saying ‘Mom, you can do it, and we need EMTs!’”
In 2017, at the age of 51, Becky officially passed the state exam and became a certified EMT.
She said there are many things she likes about riding on the ambulance. Her favorite is having the opportunity to help someone in need, at a very vulnerable time, and to also provide moral and emotional support for family members. She also enjoys working together as a team and serving the community as a volunteer.
There have been several calls that stand out in her mind, but the one she remembers most was when she responded to a call in which a woman had fallen down some stairs.
“She was in immense pain, and understandably very upset. But, in addition to that, one of her daughters was very emotionally distraught about her mom’s accident. We worked as a team to as carefully and as painlessly as possible transport the patient to the hospital. While working to get our patient safely to the ambulance, I temporarily took on the role of comforting her daughter the best that I could," Becky said.
"On the way to the hospital, the patient was in less pain, but scared and concerned. I told her she could hold my hand if she wanted to, so she did. We began talking about her family and the length of time she lived in Scotch Plains. She also asked if I would say a prayer with her," Becky explained. "While the transportation and the first aid were just as crucial, it felt like an imperative part of her treatment to tend to her emotional needs….in other words, to provide the ‘human touch.’”
Besides her volunteer work, Becky is a certified elementary school teacher, working as an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) paraprofessional for students with autism and related disorders. She’s also a member of the St. Theresa’s Church choir and Little Flower Organization, and the Westfield Instructional Support Services Association. In addition, she teaches beginner piano lessons on a very part-time basis.
“I think someone should volunteer with our squad (and/or Auxiliary) because it’s an immensely rewarding experience,” said Becky. “Not only do you make great friends, but the squad (especially the officers), support and mentor their EMTs. I volunteer on Wednesday evenings and I’ve learned so much from ‘veteran EMTs’, especially Crew Chief Joan Lozowski, who have ridden on the squad for decades. It’s a perfect way to serve the community, be part of a great organization, grow professionally and emotionally, and help your fellow human beings.”
Today, in addition to being an active member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad, she is also the president of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary, having assumed this role in November of 2018.
Editor's Note: The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad will hold its annual Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, Feb. 23, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at its building (1916 Bartle Ave.). The event is hosted by the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Auxiliary, which raises funds for the all-volunteer squad.
Author Susan Baldani is a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.