Volunteer leaves a local legacy behind | VailDaily.com

Volunteer leaves a local legacy behind

Kathy Heicher
Vail, CO Colorado
Kathy Heicher/EnterpriseThe Eagle River Foundation honored departing board member Ron Foss bu donating $1,000 to the Western Eagle County Ambulance District. From left are Benji Kitagawa, Foss, Chris Montera, Kelly Lombardi, Kurtis Johnson, Mary Hoza, Jerry Fedrizzi, Kyle Roberts, Nick Nikolich and Eric Gundlach.

EAGLE ” When Ron Foss first worked on the Eagle ambulance crew in 1978, there were just a couple of trained Emergency Medical Technicians involved, and a handful of volunteers.

The community ambulance was actually a converted station wagon. On average, the group dealt with about one ambulance call per week.

These days, the Western Eagle Ambulance District is funded by its own tax. The district has stations in Eagle and Gypsum, three ambulances (with a couple of new ones to be added next year), 17 full-time employees, including 12 paramedics, and eight part-time employees. They answer anywhere between 1,100 and 1,200 calls per year.

Current Ambulance District Chief Chris Montera credits the foresight of people like Foss for bringing the ambulance service to the point it is at today.

“It is quite amazing. They had the vision for creating an ambulance district,” he said.

Foss, a now-retired career middle school teacher, volunteered for the ambulance service for 17 years. Outside of his middle school duties, he volunteered on the ambulance crew, and taught EMT and first aid classes to dozens of students. Many of those students ended up on the ambulance crew ” and Foss was always recruiting more.

Foss was also one of the leaders who pushed for the formation of special tax district to fund emergency medical services.

“Every time we asked for something, the community came through,” he said.

After nearly 30 years in the community, Foss and his wife, Lee, are leaving. Both are now retired. They’re moving to Colorado City, west of Pueblo, so they can be closer to their son, Langdon, and his family.

In honor of his many years of service, the Eagle River Foundation, a local nonprofit that supports community causes, presented the ambulance district with a check for $1,000. Montera said the money will be used for automatic external defibrillators that used to keep people’s hearts going. The ambulance staff will go out into the community and train people to use the new equipment.

“That’s great. There were times when equipment like this could have saved lives,” Foss said.

In the many years that he volunteered for the ambulance district, Foss watched it evolve. He and others recognized the growing community needs. Getting volunteers the type of education they needed became a challenge.

“As time progressed, we knew we needed advanced life support and paramedics,” he said.

The active group worked to ensure there would be downvalley ambulance service. An ambulance tax district was proposed, and voters supported it. That funding mechanism has been key to making local ambulance service what it is today.

“I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Foss, who also serves on the Board of the Eagle River Foundation. “Volunteerism is so important for the vitality and health of a community.”

He said he’ll miss the familiarity of the small community where he has spent three. He enjoys having former students approach him in the grocery store and call him “Mr. Foss.” He’ll miss the many friends he made while teaching classes at Colorado Mountain College, he said.

But, he points out, Colorado City is much the same as Eagle was 30 years ago.

“We’re going to a community that needs volunteers. It’s going to be fun,” he says.

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