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Success Stories

Stretched Thin: Volunteer First Responders get USDA Lift

Derek VanHorn
First Responders

The remote town of Dorothy, New Jersey, is made up of about 1,300 residents. It’s small, surrounded by miles of pineland, and traversed only by two-lane roads. It’s the kind of place where having a friendly neighbor could go a long way if you found yourself in a pinch.

Lifetime local and Dorothy Volunteer Fire Company Fire Chief Jesse Hand is happy to be that neighbor. It’s all he’s known in his now 40 years of public service.

“You take a look around here and you see it’s very rural,” said Hand. “But we’ll still field over 1,200 emergency calls and another 150 fire response calls every year.”

On average that’s about one call per resident annually, and three or four calls daily. For a crew made up of around 50 volunteer firefighters and first responders – many with fulltime jobs elsewhere – sufficient staffing can be an issue.

Add on aging equipment for the more laborious tasks, like manually lifting patients onto stretchers or carrying them to safety, and those lifesaving seconds can quickly turn into minutes.

That’s where USDA Rural Development jumped in to provide a $28,900 Emergency Rural Healthcare grant to the station for a contactless, self-loading stretcher that can support up to 700 lbs.

Hand said one of the growing concerns for first responders is the increase in overweight patients. Each response to a call requires more manpower and increases the likelihood of an injury on the job, making the need for the new stretcher crucial.

“This was a significant upgrade to what we had previously and reduces the amount of lifting to be ergonomically beneficial,” said Hand. “Our staff and volunteers appreciate the new equipment, and it supports our primary goal of safety.”

The equipment will help the station’s first responders serve four townships spanning across 200 square miles in Southern Jersey.

USDA Rural Development offers community programs to support rural health care services. For more information, visit our state website or contact community programs director Christine Schmelzle at the USDA Rural Development office in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, at (856) 787-7751 or christine.schmelzle@usda.gov.

Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • New Jersey: District 2