The Waterbury Ambulance was named 2021 Ambulance Service of the Year for their support during the pandemic. This recognition comes as they celebrate 50 years of service in the community.
Executive Director Mark Podgwaite says in his department typically receives 700 calls every year. In March 2020, a particular call was one of kind.
“In the early part of 2020, we were asked if we could support some pop-up testing locations throughout the state, which we gladly did,” said Podgwaite.
Soon, he was asked to work with the state’s Covid-19 agency, CIC Health, and expand services to Waterbury, Berlin, Stowe, Grand Isle, and the Mad River Valley. They also held sites beyond their coverage area in Chittenden Orange and Lamoille Counties.
“We could not have done what are doing, I mean that on a state-wide level, without cooperation from other agencies,” said Podgwaite.
Those EMS agencies include Stowe, Northfield, and Mad River Ambulances as well as local ski patrols. By January, it was time to distribute the vaccine. Part of the challenge was figuring out how to get to those who couldn’t leave their homes.
“People who were homebound who haven’t seen anybody in months and months. We show up, and they just don’t want us to leave sometimes,” said Tom Buczkowski with Mad River Valley Ambulance Service.
Buczkowski worked in construction before becoming an EMT. During the pandemic, he learned how to administer vaccines and tests. He also became heavily involved in the process of arranging homebound vaccination visits.
It’s been interesting. On a good day, we could do maybe 6-8 home visits. We were going to remote sites and going to places where I’ve never been before,” said Buczkowski.
Podgwaite says on one of their visits, they vaccinated a 110-year-old woman.
“It would just amaze me when I would call somebody and say, I want to come over your house tomorrow and give you your shot how many people would just burst into tears,” said Podgwaite.
Others who were in line for a test Friday are grateful for their service.
“A huge thank you, I couldn’t do it. It takes a special kind of person. A special kind of dedication,” said Bolton mother Tessa Harrington.
Now the Waterbury Ambulance is running their booster clinic in Berlin with Barretown EMS. The site is equipped to do 600 doses a day. Podgwaite advises Vermonters to get vaccinated and to test regularly.
“I test once a week, whether I need it or not. Whip in, run the test, and you’re on your way,” said Podgwaite.
To celebrate five decades of service, the Waterbury Ambulance is hosting their 50th anniversary fundraiser Saturday at Farr’s Field in Waterbury. There will be live music, food trucks, and activities for kids to enjoy from 1 to 6 p.m.