She’s in familiar company — several of her siblings, her husband Todd and her parents are all part of the team. In two years, they expect a member of the third generation will join the crew, a grandson who has played the patient in many training courses throughout the years.
There are 14 members on the active roster — seven are from the Umphrey clan. However, the situation isn’t abnormal for the Mission Valley Ambulance. The whole group is mostly made from a core of three families.
At 25, Joe Mitchell is the youngest member on the squad, but he is not a rookie. He is both a volunteer EMT and firefighter. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. His father is a firefighter. His mother Katherine and sister Annie join him on the ambulance crew. One could say the spirit of service is in his blood.
“I used to get dropped off at school in the ambulance a lot,” he recalled.
The 14 active members of the Mission Valley Ambulance handled 421 calls last year, which averages just over a call each day. In reality, the crew can get four calls in one day and then no calls for four days, Couture said.
The high call volume they handle makes them unique, as they cover nearly twice as many calls per year than other community ambulances in the area. Couture credits this to the deadly stretch of highway in their district, and to recreation and lifestyle choices.
Teri Dinnell is one of the newest recruits. She has received her certification, but has yet to become an active member while she completes a task book from Mission Valley Ambulance. She had wanted to become an EMT for a longtime but finally took the leap last year.
“They are such a great ambulance crew. They are really inspirational. I hope I can treat each person with as much dignity and respect as they do,” she said.
Couture said recruitment is generally hard to do.
“It’s hard to get people interested to volunteer for something that’s inconvenient and people aren’t very nice to you,” she said.
The high school used to let students take the EMT courses and get their license as part of their senior projects. Umphrey said they are planning to revamp the program so they can recruit students to heed the call of service. She admitted it is hard to keep young people around, especially in a small town because once they get certified they move on.
However, those who do make the sacrifice to serve their community in this way have reaped a hefty reward. Teri Miller said it’s exactly the fact that they are not getting paid for their time that makes them the best crew around.
“We have a better bedside manner because we care and we are doing this as volunteers,” she said. “We’re not getting paid. We’re doing it because we want to help the community.”
Their service has not gone unnoticed by the town of St. Ignatius. EMT and assistant volleyball coach Annie Morigeau said she has gotten plenty of hugs in the grocery store from gracious family members of patients they have transported.
As their training concluded Sunday and they sat down to take their written exam, they joked that it better not take too long. The ambulances were lined up to escort the high school wrestling team, and state champion Jacen Petersen, into town as St. Ignatius welcomed them home.
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