Thanks to an outpouring of support from the community, the Millville Volunteer Fire Company has been able to raise enough funds to purchase three LUCAS Chest Compression Systems to be placed in the MVFC’s three ambulances.
EMT Michele Steffens, who also serves as the MVFC’s financial secretary, said the machines will help EMTs save valuable time during an emergency.
“When you think about how many times you have to stop CPR… When you go to roll them onto a backboard, you’re stopping,” explained Steffens. “When you’re lifting them onto the stretcher, you’re stopping. When you’re taking them out to the ambulance, you don’t ride on the stretcher out to the ambulance. The LUCAS is working the entire time.”
Last fall, when the MVFC was beginning its fundraising efforts, Karen Lesperance, president of Atlantic Community Thrift Shop (ACTS) was determined to help.
“We saw Millville had been fundraising — they had a sign out front,” recalled Lesperance. “We approached them and said, ‘How much do you need?’”
The MVFC’s goal had been to raise enough funds to purchase three LUCAS devices, with one to be placed in each of the company’s ambulances — requiring them to raise a total of $45,000. ACTS donated $30,000 — enough for the department to purchase two of the devices.
“We surprised them. They didn’t think we were going to give them as much as we did,” said Lesperance. “They were flabbergasted… I wish you could’ve seen their faces… Their hands were shaking. They couldn’t believe we had donated that much.”
“It’s not very often I’m speechless, but I was speechless,” added Steffens.
With a board of nine volunteers, many of whom are retired nurses, Lesperance said the donation to MVFC was an easy one.
“It helps the whole community… It only made sense for us as a board to do it.”
“I didn’t know there were nurses on the board,” said Steffens. “When they thought about it, they said, ‘What better way to help?’ It helps the community, not just rich, not just poor — it helps everyone. So they opted just to buy one.
“One of them was so sweet. She said, ‘I remember being on the gurney and doing this!’”
Along with donating funding for two LUCAS devices to MVFC, ACTS also donated $15,000 to Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department.
Matt Gajdos, second vice-president of the state EMS association and fire recorder for the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department, said that the department was thankful for ACTS’s generous donation.
“We were lucky enough to get that,” he said. “Anytime a business or organization partners up with us, it’s huge.”
Gajdos said the department has held off on buying the device, as they’re looking at getting additional funding that would offset the cost of the LUCAS, allowing them to use the $15,000 donation to purchase more than one.
ACTS provides donations, inexpensive goods to community
Formed in 1988, ACTS is a nonprofit organization that donates thousands of dollars each year to organizations including Camp Barnes, Camp Hope, and Delaware Hospice.
“ACTS was formed by six women from six of the original churches down here. They saw that things were being thrown away that could still be used. They figured if they had a place for those items to sell…” she said. “Our prices are very low. We are the cheapest thrift shop around. We have 50-cent shirts, dollar pants, $2 jeans, $2 dresses, $3 shirts…
“We give a lot, and we do a lot down here. The money is all raised through the sale of donated items to the thrift shop.”
Lesperance said the low cost of clothing and housewares is just another way ACTS helps the community, by allowing them to afford necessary items.
“I had a lady tell me yesterday she has 14 grandchildren and that, if it wasn’t for ACTS, she wouldn’t have been able to give them what she did, because she can come in here, find new clothes and buy them for a dollar. When she told me, I said, ‘That is our purpose. That’s why we’re here.’
“We just gave a lady who’s going through chemo — she’s one of our customers, we all know her, we all love her — a recliner, because she couldn’t lay down after her treatments.”
Lesperance first became involved by volunteering for ACTS for more than a decade and has served as its president for nine years.
“I never knew what it was, why people were standing in line in front of the store. I stopped and I saw what it was, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’ It’s going out and giving to people.”
Approximately 75 community members run the organization, all of whom are volunteers.
“Nobody gets paid here — it’s strictly volunteer. We don’t refuse anybody,” she said. “There are people who have been here for 25 years and are still volunteering. I’m just blown away [by it].”
One volunteer, “Bob the Builder,” said “I think it’s great,” of working for the nonprofit.
“I have the best volunteers. They’re truly wonderful,” said Lesperance. She added that, contrary to the beliefs of some, those who volunteer at ACTS may not purchase an endless amount of items once they’re donated.
“Volunteers are only allowed to buy five items a day, and if it’s new, they can only buy one.”
Along with donating funds to local organizations, ACTS also offers scholarships to local high school students looking for further their education. Students who volunteer 50 hours of time at the store for the year can receive $2,000 scholarships; however, Lesperance said few kids apply.
“We didn’t have any last year,” she said.
Thrift shop comes to the rescue for needs big and small
Currently, ACTS is working to help the Home of the Brave II, a transitional home for homeless military veterans, located in Milford.
“They didn’t have a lot of money. We’re hoping to get them DART cards to go back and forth to work on the bus. We’re trying to help them,” she said. “We help anybody that’s legitimate. If there’s a fire, we help immediately. That’s one of the big things we do.”
Lesperance said ACTS does a great many things, most of which go unknown or unnoticed in the community.
“We do a lot. We know it’s a huge impact, but it doesn’t get out very often.”
“The story I’ll never forget is there was a little boy who came to the back door one day. We were just about to close, and the little boy, he needed a mattress. He came to the back door and he said he had just moved in with his mum-mum and was sleeping on the floor.
“He had tears in his eyes, and I said, ‘Honey, we’ll get you a bed.’ So we got him a bed frame and a mattress. He hugged me and he said, ‘My daddy’s really sick and, hopefully, he gets better.’ His dad was on drugs… I tell you what — that broke my heart. I would’ve given him everything… I think it’s why most people come, because they know what we do.”
Lesperance said she’s proud of the help the organization has been able to provide to the community and hopes it will continue for years to come.
“We were very, very happy with the fire company donations. They had invited me to go to their banquet, and they said to me they wanted to thank us for the work they do. To me — look at what they do. They’re all volunteers, they save lives… They don’t need to thank us…
“It’s people helping people. That’s what we do.”
Steffans said the work ACTS does for the community is extraordinary and that she is so thankful for their support in funding.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It was one of those things where we would’ve been happy just to get one before the end of the year. To get all three before the end of the year — we were absolutely blessed.”
As part of its initial effort to raise funds, the MVFC sought donations from local businesses and also held a movie night at the Clayton Theatre.
“The community was just so absolutely supportive when it came to the movie night. I was asking for $100 donations and getting anywhere between $100 and $500. The community was wonderful. Basically, before we even walked into the movies, we already had the LUCAS paid for.”
The devices are stored in self-contained backpacks on each of the ambulances. Steffens said EMTs may also use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) while the LUCAS is performing automated chest compressions.
Gajdos said Dagsboro’s coverage area has dramatic population spikes in the summer months, going from approximately 750 residents to 2,500, which makes having the best equipment that much more necessary.
“We’re just very thankful to businesses that decide to partner,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to provide the service at this level without their cooperation.”
Currently, the MVFC is staffed by nine full-time career employees, several part-time employees and numerous dedicated volunteers.
“We do have leftover funds. We’ve kept it in a LUCAS fund, so it’ll go toward any maintenance,” she added. “Since it’s our first year with them, we want to cover all our bases and make sure we have a little leftover in case something unexpected comes up. We didn’t want to have to pull money out from someone else’s budget.”
Steffans offered her thanks to the local businesses and residents who contributed to their fundraising efforts and made the purchase of the LUCAS devices a reality: Fontana and Paul Keller; Jefferson, Urian Doane & Sterner; Lord Baltimore Lions; Michael McCarthy Stones; NV Homes at the Beach; Ocean RV Center; Prop Divers; Frank Rickards; Robert’s Repair Service Inc.; Seahawk Upholstery; Solutions Plus; Mason Dixon Post 7234; State Farm Insurance, Denise Beam; Tidewater Physical Therapy; Treasure Island Fashions; Treasure Quest; UPS Store; Ruth and George Vernimb; Vickie York Best of the Beach; WSFS Bank; Mary and Joseph Mulcare Jr.; Sandra and Thomas Natolly; Elsie and Donald Pearson; Preceptor Omega Chapter, Beta Sigma; Natalie and John Lazo; Lois James, DDS Family Dentistry; Law Office of D. Stephen Parsons, PA; and the Law Office of Susan Pittard Weidman, PA.
“It was just wonderful how the entire community came together to support the fire company and the EMS,” said Steffens. “It’s just amazing.”
“We’re just very thankful for the businesses that do decide to partner with the fire and EMS service here in Delaware. We wouldn’t be able to provide the service at the level the community deserves without their cooperation,” added Gajdos. “A lot of other states don’t have the unique opportunity that we have in Delaware. We’re small, and all three counties work very well together.”