A two-year fundraising drive by the General Federation of Women's Clubs of Virginia (GFWC) recently culminated in the organization presenting Virginia Tech's student-run rescue squad with a new ambulance.

The 2009 E450 Ford ambulance increases the rescue squad’s fleet to four, which will help the organization meet increasing demand for its services, said Matt Johnson, who became squad captain in May 2007 and will remain so through May 2010. The ambulance is believed to be the largest-ever single donation to the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad.

“The ambulance is going to help us by fulfilling a need we’ve had for some time,” said Johnson, a native of Milford, Del., who recently graduated with a bachelor’s in construction engineering and management from the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, a joint program of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the College of Engineering.

“Our call volume has increased by 25 percent over the last five years.” Johnson continued, “and we’re experiencing more desire from the university and organizations on and off campus to provide standby service – having an ambulance present when there is a larger than normal number of people at an event, or a greater-than-average risk of injury.”

Johnson said the new ambulance will also allow them to take vehicles out of service for longer periods of time for repair and maintenance. “With only three, we really haven’t be able to take one out of service for a long period of time … without affecting our ability to serve the needs of the individuals and organizations that rely on us,” he said.

Kathryn Sowers, of Vinton, was president of the Virginia branch of the federation of women’s clubs in 2007, when the group first started planning to raise money for the rescue squad. When Emma Jean Wise, of Weyers Cave, became federation president for the state in 2008, she chose raising money for the ambulance as the special state project for her administration, and Sowers was chosen to lead the fundraising effort, which netted more than $100,000.

“When we stared this project is was a dream,” Sowers said. “I had no idea that our women in the state of Virginia could bring it to completion in two years.”

Sowers said several students who belong to the rescue squad appeared at federation meetings and impressed federation members with their dedication to serving their fellow students and the community at large.

“I think the student-run rescue squad is probably one of the unsung heroes of Virginia Tech,” Sowers said. “I would trust my life with them. I really would. They’re very capable, they’re very dedicated, and we saw that in their presentations at our state meetings. It was just inspiring.”

Johnson, one of the squad members who appeared at federation events, said, “It’s humbling to have a statewide group working on a project for your organization. That really means a lot to our membership, knowing there’s a lot of people out there that appreciate what we do and see the need for it.”

Marking 40 years of service in 2009, the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad is the emergency medical service agency serving the campus of Virginia Tech. It is a nationally recognized, award-winning, volunteer, student-run organization committed to providing exceptional emergency medical services to the university community.

GFWC Virginia is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, one of the oldest and largest women’s volunteer service organizations. GFWC Virginia has nearly 6,000 members in 198 clubs across the state. For more information, visit them online or call (804) 288-3724.

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