10/02/14 4:00pm
10/02/2014 4:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Northampton Flanders Volunteer Ambulance Corps first responder Ronnie Hintze (left), driver Matt Deerkoski (center) and paramedic Marco Guecha take the accident 'victim' to an ambulance after it was removed from the car with the 'jaws of life' during a demonstration at the corps headquarters on Bell Avenue in Flanders Saturday afternoon. They enlisted one new member Saturday and three during the week.

Northampton Flanders Volunteer Ambulance Corps first responder Ronnie Hintze (left), driver Matt Deerkoski (center) and paramedic Marco Guecha handle an accident ‘victim’ to an ambulance during a demonstration at the corps headquarters in 2012. (Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

Local fire department and ambulance chiefs are praising recently signed legislation that protects volunteer firefighters and EMTs from losing their regular jobs for missing work while responding to disasters and crises.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law Sept. 23. The new law provides excused leave for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers who are called away to help out during a state of emergency.

Those volunteers will be granted unpaid excused leave for the duration of their service during a declared state of emergency, according to the legislation.

Employers can request that volunteers provide them with documentation showing they are on the fire department roster and the protection can be withdrawn if the employer can prove that the volunteer’s absence would cause “undue hardship” to the business.

Still, some at North Fork fire departments said the law would provide peace of mind for seasoned volunteers and new members alike.

Cutchogue Fire Department Chief Antone Berkoski said some are “reluctant” to join the department.

“They want to help the community but they’re afraid to get fired or they don’t want to have to take the days [off],” he said. This new legislation may make it easier to recruit new members, he said.

Joseph Raynor, Riverhead Fire Department’s fire chief, called the bill “good legislation.”

“Why should [your job] be held in jeopardy when you’re helping out your community?” he asked. While it’s comforting to know his volunteers will have their jobs protected while answering emergencies, Mr. Raynor said most managers in town are understanding in times of crisis.

“Riverhead businesses are very good about it,” he said. “But when you have to run across the businessman who’s not friendly to the fire services, it’s good to protect the [firefighters].”

Southold Fire Chief Peggy Killian also praised the new law.

“I think if you’re volunteering to help the community, you shouldn’t have to worry,” she said.

When contacted this week, Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance assistant chief Lisa Corwin said she hadn’t heard about the new law.

“We as volunteers want to be able to help when there is a disaster, and the last thing we should have to think about is how our job is going to be affected by volunteering to help others,” she said. “Fortunately, most of the members of RVAC are very dedicated, and whenever there is a crisis or threat of a big storm, we seem to have plenty of members to help the public, so this law will definitely help everyone.”

04/25/14 2:04pm
04/25/2014 2:04 PM

Wading_River_firehouseThe Wading River Fire Department will host an open house Saturday as part of a county-wide recruitment drive to get more firefighters in the ranks.

Like all North Fork fire departments, the Wading River department is staffed with volunteers.

“You take care of your own community,” said assistant fire chief Kevin Mcqueeney.

The drive will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the department’s firehouse on North Country Road.

10/14/13 6:21pm
10/14/2013 6:21 PM
NEW BEGINNINGS COURTESY PHOTO | Volunteers helping frame the first floor of New Beginning Brendan House on Sound Avenue.

NEW BEGINNINGS COURTESY PHOTO | Volunteers helping frame the first floor of New Beginning Brendan House on Sound Avenue.

Work has officially begun on the long anticipated New Beginnings Brendan House, but to get the home finished the non-profit foundation is in need of volunteers.

“We’re very exited. The more people the better. We want to keep the project moving,” said Allyson Scerri, founder of The New Beginnings Community Center in Medford. “We’ve been going full force, really, for the past month.”

She and husband Steve are looking for volunteers to help with the project, which will serve as a home for people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and need round-the-clock care.

They are looking for framers, electricians and plumbers, as well as cleanup crews and people to donate or help prepare lunches.

“Even guys that are willing to learn, it’s a great way for them to learn fast from professional guys,” she said

Volunteers will be needed every Saturday and Sunday, Ms. Scerri said. Those that need to perform community service can also take part, and letters outlining their service will be given, she said.

“It seems like for most people, the time they do have is on the weekends,” she said. “If we have enough volunteers we will work during the week as well.”

They have hired Roy Schweers of Schweers Construction to work as the project manager. He helped build the non-profits Medford site, she said.

“We call him the builder of dreams, and he’ll donate a day here and there too,” she said.

This Sunday three volunteers helped frame the first story of the home, Ms. Scerri said.

“We want to get the word out. There are so many good people that want to get this done for the community,” she said.

At the same time, the non-profit is still trying to raise the funds needed to complete the home, so the more volunteers the better, she said.

“Funding is difficult. We’re just going off fundraisers and the lumber bill alone is like $30,000 so the money is going fast,” she said. “I am trying to think of other fundraisers we could do.”

Those interested in volunteering should reach Steve Scerri (516) 356-5642.

Michael Hubbard, a Riverhead teenager who suffered severe brain damage in the aftermath of being badly burned by an exploding gel candle in his backyard in May, 2011, is expected to be one of the residents of Brendan House.