For more than seven decades the members of the Tri-Boro First Aid Squad have served in relative silence.
They are the ones who leave dinner with their families to go help residents whose house just burned down. When a call comes in at 2 a.m. they wipe away the tired feeling and spring into action.
The squad is celebrating its 75th year of serving Kinnelon, Butler, and Bloomingdale. It was founded in 1939 by a small group of men who were members of the Pompton Lakes First Aid Squad.
Last year the squad responded to more than 1,600 calls, the most ever in a year.
“I think everyone who volunteers with the squad does so for the same reason and that’s to help people,” said Helen Wyckoff, a 41-year volunteer. “You’re involved with the people in your community, different organizations, and with children. I think it enriches your life.”
Wyckoff joined the squad after her stepmother had a heart attack on Easter Sunday.
“Nobody knew what to do and the man who was on the Vernon First Aid Squad came down and gave her CPR. I said that I never wanted to feel that helpless again and I joined the squad.”
Walt Mutzenback is the current senior member on the squad. He joined 47 years ago when Lyndon Johnson was president. He joined after he thought he had a heart attack and called the squad.
Mutzenback said one of the more memorable calls he went on was when he helped deliver a baby in the back of an ambulance on Route 23 in West Milford in 1979.
“That’s the best thing about being a member of the squad, helping someone delivery a baby,” Mutzenback said. “You try and blot out the bad times.”
One particular bad call he went on was when a 4-year-old drowned in a swimming pool.
“I went back to pick up my equipment and some of his toys were out and they were similar to my son’s toys,” Mutzenback said. “That shook me up and I almost left the squad at that point.”
Mutzenback said that serving others has been a gratifying experience.
“With volunteers, you’re not there for the monetary value and you’re not there for the glory,” he said. “You’re there to help someone. That’s why we all do it.”