Oldest volunteer squad in the nation located right here in Palmyra

The Palmyra Ambulance Association serves Palmyra, Cinnaminson and Riverton

The 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 356 days a year Palmyra Ambulance Association is more than just a squad of EMTs. It’s the “oldest volunteer squad” in the nation.

The squad was founded in 1921 when a young boy was badly burned in a fire. With no ambulance available, the boy had to be put on a freight train to get him to the hospital. Members of the community came together and decided that an ambulance association was necessary.

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The squad has been active and growing ever since. Despite being based in Palmyra, it serves Palmyra, Riverton and Cinnaminson and recently opened up a substation in Cinnaminson in order to decrease response time. Board of Trustees Chairperson Sue Kennedy says that the squad is now receiving approximately 3,000 calls per year.

The Palmyra Ambulance Association is a non-profit organization that is not part of any fire district or fire department. It also does not receive funding from the township, so it relies entirely on insurance payments and donations to stay functioning.

Palmyra Ambulance Association President Eva Schultz says that it’s important for residents to know that the bills they receive from the association are for insurance companies only. Instead of writing a check for the bill, recipients should simply write down their insurance information and return that to the association.

While the squad used to be entirely made up of volunteers, in recently years it was forced to hire paid workers to work daytime shifts.

Anyone ages 15 years or older is eligible to become a member of the squad. The squad offers both riding status and associate status. Riders are the members of the squad that you see on the streets responding to calls. Associates are just as important and put in a lot of effort to helping the organization behind the scenes, but they don’t ride in the ambulances.

Volunteers first go through an interview process. If they’re selected to continue, they come to the first meeting and find out what’s expected as volunteers and the squad answers any questions. They’re provided with fingerprinting and a medical examination at no cost as well as a list of rules and regulations that they will be required to abide by.

Volunteers are required to serve a minimum of 24 hours each month. This can be done with a weekly six-hour shift, or by knocking it all out in one weekend with two 12-hour shifts.

Schultz says that in her 48 years with the organization, she can only remember one person backing out of training. Schultz has spent nearly half of a century with the squad because of her genuine love for helping the community.

“It’s going out and serving the public. That’s what keeps me here,” Schultz said. “We have some really good people and we’re all there for the same reason, so we all have the same feelings. I love being able to go out and help someone, no matter what it is.”

Sixteen-year-old Ben Johnson is a junior at Cinnaminson High School who has been with the squad for about a year. He recently completed EMT training.

“This might sound cliché, but I do like helping the community and it’s really rewarding and cool to experience,” Johnson said. “Eventually I’d like to get into med school, so this is a good start for me.”

Volunteer Joe Papeika also spoke of how the squad has benefited him personally.

“I really enjoy the way that helping others helps me, both with my medical skills and with my take on human services in general. Helping others is a great intrinsic value for me,” Papeika said.

Papeika has been with the squad for about three years and is also EMT certified.

The squad is always looking for more volunteers. All training is provided. All the squad asks is that volunteers have the desire to help — both the squad and your neighbors.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer at the Palmyra Ambulance Association should visit the squad website.

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