Some things are worth the wait. That was most definitely the case with the brand-new South Orange Rescue Squad (SORS) headquarters, which was unveiled to the public on Saturday after more than two years of planning, fundraising — and a lot of help from the community.
A large and enthusiastic crowd attended to celebrate with the volunteer members of SORS. On hand were Village officials, including Village President Sheena Collum and Trustees Mark Rosner, Deborah Davis Ford, Steve Schnall, Walter Clarke and Jeff DuBowy; State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey; Essex County Clerk Christopher Durkin; SORS President Melanie Troncone and Chief Dan Cohen.
The new state-of-the-art headquarters, next to the South Orange Fire Department, features an ambulance bay for three ambulances plus a 1st Responder vehicle, training and meeting rooms, a kitchen and bunk rooms. The headquarters is dedicated to the memory of former squad member Mary L. Connor, who devoted more than 40 years to serving the community.
The all-volunteer squad provides EMS services to South Orange as well as Maplewood and surrounding communities.
Troncone and Cohen thanked the many people and organizations who made the new building a reality by donating time or funds, including State Farm (agent Christine Coster officially presented a $25,000 check), and Investor’s Savings Bank, which also gave a $25,000 grant; South Orange Fire Dept. Chief Daniel Sullivan, Chief Kyle Kroll of the South Orange Police Dept., Head of Building Dept. Tony Grenci, Dir. of Public Works Tom Michetti and Zoning Official Sal Renda.
An award was presented to South Orange Police Det. Steven Davenport, who saved the life of resident Tim Callahan.
SORS member Scott Egelberg said the squad’s motto was “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” and the community epitomized that by stepping up to help “in ways both big and small.” He said the new headquarters will enable to squad to deliver high-quality EMS care to its residents.
Cohen added a special thank you to squad members’ families, for being supportive of the squad’s long hours and countless missed family dinners and events.
Collum said, “I don’t think there is a single volunteer activity more important than saving lives. Davis Ford called South Orange a “model city for volunteers.” Durkin, who grew up in South Orange, said, “A village is made special by its volunteers and residents.”
Jasey, who has lived in South Orange since 1978, presented the squad with an official proclamation. She told the story of how the Rescue Squad years ago helped locate her brother, who had Downs Syndrome and had wandered away. “My family has always been grateful” to the SORS.
After the speeches and proclamations, attendees enjoyed cake from The Able Baker, food donated by Stop and Shop and Dunkin’ Donuts, music by Intune, Phil Cox and John Brophy, and activities for the little ones. Bunnys and Tito’s Burritos were noted for each donating a portion of their proceeds to SORS.
Established in 1952, the Rescue Squad spent 43 years at their previous location. When the old HQ was demolished, this much needed upgrade was planned. Over the past two years, the Rescue Squad has worked to raise money to complete the construction by holding fundraisers, applying for grants and selling engraved bricks and tiles that are now a permanent part of the building.