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Ambulance Service Seeks New, Renewing Members
Closing in on the half-century mark, Escalon Community Ambulance is gearing up for its annual membership drive with a new theme: Join The Generations.

"Next year will be our 50th year of operation," ECA Manager Mike Pitassi said. "We decided to go with a theme, Join the Generations, because through the generations, many families have been a part of this organization."

A series of mailers will be going out next month as the ECA offers its annual membership drive. Goal this year, said Pitassi, is to reach those younger families in the community that have not yet signed on as members, in addition to retaining longtime memberships.

"All the money that goes into memberships pays for equipment, technology, ambulance replacement," he explained. "Right now we are replacing one about every five years and the cost is between $120,000 and $140,000 without the equipment, just for the ambulance."

Through the years since the local ambulance service was started in 1961, Pitassi said the community has truly bought in to the system. In order to keep it going, though, that support needs to continue.

"We're trying to get the message across to the younger generations, the 30 and 40-year-olds," said Pitassi. "Their parents have supported this service since its inception."

Membership fee is $35 per household annually, which works out to less than 10 cents per day. Members receive emergency transport and, if necessary, transport by ambulance to doctors appointments.

"Say if you get a $1,000 ambulance bill and your insurance has a cap of $500 (for payment) ... you just saved $465," Pitassi explained, noting that minus the $35 membership fee, the rest of the ambulance bill is covered.

"Any additional trips, you're saving some significant out of pocket costs," he added.

Billing figures show that over the past 12 months, ECA transported 50 members and wrote down just over $12,275 in costs for that service.

"That is a little less than half the amount taken in during the annual membership drive. ECA net approximately $15,000," Pitassi said of last year's drive. "Saving per member (for transport) average was $245. Not bad on a $35 annual investment."

Wheelchair transport, however, is not covered in the membership plan.

Escalon Community Ambulance is affiliated with Oak Valley Hospital District and has three full-time employees, including Pitassi as paramedic/manager, paramedic Tina Van Houten and paramedic Vanessa Herrero, along with four part-time employees.

Pitassi said the community has been blessed through the years with dedicated employees and an equally impressive Board of Directors.

"The board takes no money, no benefit to be board members, they are just there as part of their community service," he explained. "They work well together. I've been here 23 years and there have never been any conflicts."

The official launching of the membership drive for 2010 will be the first week in July. Postcard mailings will be done this year, with one the first week, one at mid-month to follow up on those that haven't responded and a third and final membership mailing at the end of July.

The $35 annual fee covers the entire household, added Pitassi, with everyone registered living at a specific address covered as part of the membership.

"We are also doing a larger yard sign campaign this year, we think that gets the message out," he said. "We'll be putting out about 400 (signs) this year, some we will have in obvious public places and we're checking with some members to see if they will place them on their lawns."

Pitassi said having just come through the primary election with campaign signs seemingly everywhere, they will be cautious not to overwhelm the community with the signs but will have enough to get the word out about the membership drive.

The history of ECA and its longevity are directly attributable to community support, added Pitassi.

"This service got started because a lot of people stepped up in the '60s," he pointed out. "This community, they're our owners, they started it, they kept it going.

"It's one of the most efficiently run systems in the county, which is why we have been able to survive, and we want to get across to those younger people and those moving in, your community ambulance service needs you to support it."

For more information on membership or the ambulance service, call 838-1351.