CALDWELL, NJ — As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, Caldwell community members have responded to a call to arms to support both the West Essex First Aid Squad (WEFAS) and local restaurants during their time of need.

In a letter to the community, Mayor John Kelley urged residents to drop off meals whenever possible to the WEFAS, noting that the increased number of calls caused by the pandemic have left the squad members with little time to shop and prepare their meals while on shift.

Councilman Jonathan Lace immediately knew that he could take that plea a step further by incorporating the need to support the WEFAS into the borough’s effort to support local businesses—particularly restaurants in the area that would be able to fulfill the first aid squad’s need for prepared meals.

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In response to the mayor’s message, Lace requested and received approval for creating a schedule for the borough on signupgenius.com, which asks volunteers to have meals delivered from local restaurants.

“The WEFAS is a dedicated group of volunteers that are always there when our member communities need them,” said Lace. “This will hopefully help in two ways: by making sure WEFAS crews are fed and at the same time helping to support our local food merchants. After the message and the link was posted to the borough website on Monday, I’m thrilled to say that the entire month of April and the first two weeks of May are already booked solid for local food deliveries to WEFAS crews.

“The [WEFAS members] are putting their lives on the line for us with every call during this pandemic. The least we can do for them is to make sure that their lives are sustained. Defeating this virus will take a community-wide effort. Hopefully, this is a small piece of that and a model that we’ll see used again in the future.”

Residents should also be aware of the following note that the Caldwell Police Department posted on the WEFAS webpage: 

“We have been receiving reports from residents that they have been getting calls requesting donations for the WEFAS to support responses during the coronavirus emergency. While we are looking at different fund-raising programs, we have not, nor will we ever be cold-calling residents for funds. If you do receive one of these calls, please report it to your local police department.”

The crews average between nine-to-11 individuals, and residents are able to share the cost of donated meals with friends and neighbors as needed. Contact WEFAS for any additional questions at (973) 403-8568.

Established in 1938, the WEFAS provides a 24-hour emergency medical service to the West Essex area at no cost to the patient. The squad’s primary source of funding is through donations.

The approximately 85 members currently serving on the squad include 9-11 members serving per shift. The WEFAS also has four fully equipped ambulances, a rescue truck and a support vehicle.

The squad responded to 2,614 calls for assistance in 2019 and has responded to 477 calls thus far in 2020, according to the WEFAS website.

The WEFAS is always looking for new members, and there are also positions available for junior members ages 16 and 17. Adult members must be 18 and possess a valid driver’s license as well as the use of a car.

Members must live or work in the towns served (Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield, West Caldwell and North Caldwell); be physically fit; be able to attend training classes and be available to ride on a regular schedule (day or night). 

To learn more about the WEFAS, visit the website at https://westessexfas.org/contact-us/.