Electric co-ops provide donations for new EMT training and equipment in South Dakota

Conde has a volunteer ambulance service.

Just six months ago, that simple statement did not seem like it would be a reality in the small Spink County (South Dakota) community. The Conde Ambulance service was faced with a shrinking number of trained volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). There was a real risk that the ambulance – which serves a 250 square mile area in Brown, Spink, Clark, and Day counties – would have to close. That is the reason Conde Fire Chief Dave DeBarge began an effort last August to breathe new life into the service.

“We just didn’t want to lose the ambulance. That is what it boils down to,” DeBarge said.

Conde Ambulance

Conde Fire Chief David DeBarge (right) talks to new volunteers Dave Bucholz (left), Lillie Bucholz (middle), and Justin Bucholz (middle) in the Conde Ambulance garage.

DeBarge and Conde Ambulance Administrator and Registered Nurse Cassie Haskell began a campaign to tell local community members that the service was at serious risk of shutting down. The news encouraged new volunteers to step up this fall and serve as volunteer EMTs.

“It was an opportunity to help out our local community along with the surrounding communities,” volunteer Justin Bucholz said.

Justin Bucholz, his dad Dave Bucholz, and his mother Lillie Bucholz, live in Doland. They are among the 10 volunteers who raised their hands to serve when they heard about the situation.

Lillie works in Conde and all three Bucholz family members currently serve on the Doland Volunteer Fire Department, so they wanted to help out in their neighboring community of Conde as well.
“It all comes down to looking out for your neighbor,” Dave Bucholz said. “It’s something that needs to be done so you do it.”

As volunteers began to step up to fill the gap, the focus shifted to raising money to pay for the training and equipment for the new EMTs. Nearly $20,000 in donations was needed by the end of 2018 to ensure the new volunteers would have all the necessary resources to serve the more than 250 square mile coverage area. More than $5,000 was raised from community members in the Conde area and the Spink County Commission approved a $10,000 grant in December. The rest of the money was donated by three local electric co-ops including Basin Electric Class C member Northern Electric Cooperative.

“I’m grateful for those who stepped up and especially grateful for those who stepped up to fund this,” Haskell said.

Northern Electric, Basin Electric Class A member East River Electric Power Cooperative, and Basin Electric teamed up to contribute $6,700 to Conde Ambulance to train and equip the new volunteers. It was an important donation to support a critical service.

Conde Ambulance

Northern Electric CEO and General Manager Char Hager (left) and Board of Directors member Vic Fischbach (middle) present Conde Ambulance Administrator Cassie Haskell (middle) and Conde Fire Chief David DeBarge with three donations totaling $6,700.

“Safety is a top priority for our local electric co-ops,” Northern Electric Cooperative CEO and General Manager Char Hager said. “We have members, employees, and linemen who live and work in the areas served by the Conde Ambulance. It was absolutely important to support ambulance service in this rural part of our service territory.”

The money will be used to cover the cost of EMT training courses, personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical bags for the ten new volunteers.

According to ambulance officials, if there was not a service in Conde patients would have to wait 45 minutes or more for an ambulance to respond from Aberdeen, Redfield, or Webster.
“I have three kids at home and I guarantee someday we’ll need the ambulance,” Haskell said. “To see the volunteers step up has been overwhelming.”

The new volunteers are currently going through a ten-week training and certification course on Saturdays and Sundays with an instructor from Aberdeen Fire and Rescue. The volunteers are expected to finish their training by the middle of March. Conde Ambulance officials are grateful their community stepped up to save the service.

“We have that second chance now,” DeBarge said.

A second chance to serve their neighbors and save lives.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Ben Dunsmoor, Northern Electric Cooperative communications director, for sharing this story.

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