History

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In 1958, a group of eight concerned area residents - Augustine (Gus) D’Ambrosia, Edward DeLaRosa, Mary DeLaRosa, Robert Chase, Janice Chase, and Irma Brady - began discussing the formation of a new ambulance service for the area of Middletown Township and its neighboring boroughs - Hulmeville, Langhorne, Langhorne Manor and Penndel. Over the months that followed, they drafted articles of incorporation that were subsequently filed with the Bucks County Recorder of Deeds on March 25, 1959, marking the corporate existence of Penndel-Middletown Emergency Squad. During the formative months prior to the incorporation, the founders also searched for and acquired a used ambulance, a 1947 Cadillac-Superior Coach. Through John DeSousa, owner of Triangle Realty at 119 West Lincoln Highway in Penndel (which is now Frank Van’s Auto Tag Service), they were able to set up shop at that location in a garage large enough to house the ambulance and give a minimal amount of space for other Squad business. The Squad responded to its first call for assistance on June 1, 1959. The organization remained at 119 West Lincoln Highway until larger quarters were obtained from Jack Gleason, owner of Langhorne Realty. The second base of operations was on East Lincoln Highway near Route 413 south. Starting in 1961 and for several years thereafter, Paul Sauerbry, owner of Greenwood Dairies (where Team Toyota is now located), provided garage and crew facilities for the Squad in a building on his property.

Squad members continued to search for a permanent home, finally purchasing a nearby property at 616 East Lincoln Highway in Middletown Township on April 5, 1968…for $26,950. It offered a large, two-story home with a basement and limited garage space. Over the years a third ambulance was added to the fleet, and the Squad’s volunteers began planning for a more permanent facility to house the apparatus and provide crew quarters and office space. They contacted an architect, who began the design process and suggested a rather sizeable concrete block facility, which at the time was beyond the Squad’s financial means. However, a smaller version was considered and finally approved by the membership. This was a big step forward, as during the earlier years, members would often reach into their own pockets to pay for gas or repairs on the vehicles, because the Squad could not afford to pay all of its bills. In fact, in order for the Squad to acquire the property at 616 East Lincoln Highway and then build the permanent structure on it, Treasurer Kurt Klockenthoer, Jr. secured loans using his own property, a fairly sizeable farm, as collateral...without his family’s knowledge!

Over the years several different makes of ambulances were purchased, from limousine styles to the light truck, station-wagon types, to van types in the mid-1970’s. In the early 1980’s the first van-front modular ambulance, a Ford E-350 Wheeled Coach, was purchased. In subsequent years the trend was toward Type I, II and III ambulances, and the Squad began to rely on medium-duty, Type I ambulances on International 4300 chassis.

Training has been of the utmost importance to the Squad since its inception. Initially the volunteers learned basic and advanced first aid from the American Red Cross. Drivers took classes in defensive driving from the Pennsylvania State Police. In 1974, six Squad members completed the first emergency medical technician course sponsored by the Bucks County Emergency Health Council at the former Delaware Valley Hospital in Bristol. Within a few years, the Council began training some of the county’s certified emergency medical technicians as EMT-paramedics to provide advanced life support in the pre-hospital setting. In the summer of 1978, the first paramedic students from Penndel-Middletown Emergency Squad began taking classes at various hospitals throughout the county. Within 18 months, ten Squad volunteers had been certified as paramedics. This was a strong period of growth and accomplishment for the organization. At the same time, the planned construction of a second-floor addition to Squad headquarters to support that growth had become a reality.

Over the years the Squad has been fortunate to have a steady influx of volunteer members. However, in the mid-1980’s many of the volunteer members who had been able to cover the daytime hours during the Monday-Friday workweek (notably, steelworkers) saw their jobs change, and the ability of the Squad to stay in service was sorely tried. It was during those lean years that Sam Simon, Sr. and Lyle Winters of the nearby Simon’s Garage pitched in to drive the ambulance so that calls for service did not go unanswered.

On December 23, 1987, we lost our last founding member, Gus D’Ambrosia, who was interred with departmental honors. The Squad had seen many changes since its inception nearly three decades earlier. Legal mandates continued to challenge the daily operations. In order to meet the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s requirement to be in service 24 hours a day, the Squad entered into a cooperative agreement with Bucks County Rescue Squad in Bristol for the provision of ambulance service. In essence, Bucks County Rescue Squad, which had become the first squad in Bucks County to employ emergency medical technicians and paramedics, hired some of Penndel-Middletown’s volunteers and then assigned them to 616 East Lincoln Highway to man Penndel-Middletown’s ambulances during the day. This interim program lasted for approximately two years while the leadership researched the laws regarding the hiring of employees. Eventually the Squad made the decision to supplement its volunteer staff by employing personnel to ensure that the community’s demand for ambulance service would always be met. Three of its volunteers made the somewhat difficult decision to become the Squad’s employees. With the hiring of the full-time staff and its increase in size over the years, a renovation of the crew quarters was in order. Eliminated was the former radio room, where Squad dispatchers had answered the calls for emergency service prior to the advent of the County 9-1-1 system. A new kitchen replaced it, and the rest room facilities and fire alarm system were updated. Expansion continued at Squad headquarters in subsequent years, to include an addition to the existing bunkroom, the widening of the garage to accommodate larger ambulances, and the enlarging of the billing office on the second floor.

In 1980, with the support of Middletown Township officials and the four local fire companies, Penndel-Middletown became only the second EMS agency in Pennsylvania to establish and be recognized as a bona fide volunteer fireman’s relief association under Act 84 of 1968. This corporate entity, organized and managed separately from the Squad but connected through its common volunteer membership, derives most of its income from the Commonwealth’s tax on foreign (out-of-state) fire insurance policies. These taxes are distributed through local municipalities among fire-company and EMS relief associations throughout the state and may be used to equip, protect, and train the members of those associations. The funds effectively relieve the taxpayers of some of their burden for fire protection and ambulance service.

As far back as twenty years, the growth potential of the community was recognized by Squad and Township officials, and plans began for the eventual establishment of a second Squad facility in the northern portion of Middletown Township. Though it was a long process that was made more cumbersome by the natural course of leadership changes at the Squad and the Township, discussion of a substation in northern Middletown finally gained momentum. In an effort to move forward with the project, the Squad purchased property in January 2000 at 1450 Woodbourne Road. However, several of the immediate neighbors expressed concern about an active EMS station so close to their properties. The Township worked to find a solution, and in 2003 the Squad was given permission to establish a substation on a nearby property at 1741 Langhorne-Yardley Road that had been donated to Middletown Township by Walter Styer of Styer’s Orchards. The Woodbourne Road property was sold, and the planning process focused on the Langhorne-Yardley Road site. With an agreement in place with the Township, the Squad purchased temporary housing in the form of a Fleetwood doublewide mobile home and placed it on the land, later adding a detached steel garage to house two ambulances. The substation, designated as Squad 167 in the County EMS system, officially opened its doors on June 1, 2004. Since then, Middletown Township moved forward with plans for a joint fire/EMS station on the property for Penndel-Middletown Emergency Squad and Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company. Following an August 2008 groundbreaking ceremony, construction of the permanent facility began in October.

The Squad’s Executive Board, still comprised entirely of volunteer staff, has managed the organization for all of its 50 years. Active, riding volunteer members still number more than 30, and there are as many as 20 active volunteers who perform the tedious administrative tasks necessary to run a two-million-dollar corporation. Many of the 25 full- and part-time career members started out as volunteers, either at Penndel-Middletown or a neighboring squad. In February 2007, the resilience of the organization’s members was tested when Frank White, who had just completed a five-year term as Squad chief and assumed the position of president, suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 51. His death not only left members stunned and saddened – it necessitated an immediate change in the elected leadership positions. The relatively seamless transition that followed is a testament to those who took over the helm - President Renee Feliciano and Chief Brent McLaughlin. That helm has been manned for a half-century by some of the most dedicated and competent people in the community. And the community has been behind them with unwavering financial support…from the handouts at their doors when Squad members came calling in the 1960’s, to the coins tossed into buckets at highway intersections in the 1970’s, to the EMS tax, to the subscription membership fund drive, to donations mailed anonymously in the holiday season with a note of thanks…the public has been there.

On May 16, 2009, the Squad celebrated 50 years of providing emergency medical service to the residents of Middletown Township and the adjoining boroughs with a formal banquet at the Buck Hotel, Feasterville.

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