EMT Dave Kidd, director Jessi Willenbring and EMS Scott Fuchs
From left: EMT Dave Kidd, director Jessi Willenbring and EMS Scott Fuchs. Submitted photo

Ellsworth Area Ambulance Service won best health and wellness business at the Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet Feb.21.

The Republican Eagle spoke with service director Jessi Willenbring about the award, being located in a smaller town and more.

Did you think you would win this award?

I did not expect this award and am quite humbled by it. I am very proud of the staff here. Their dedication to our community is remarkable.

How did you react when you heard you won? 

We were surprised and honored to be recognized by our community.

What goals and hopes do you have for your business in 2022?

Our goals for 2022 are to return to in-person training exercises, continue to provide public education programs and continue to provide top-notch emergency medical services to our community.

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19 and related restrictions over the past two years?

COVID-19 brought some unique challenges to our agency and to emergency medical services as a whole. In the beginning we struggled with the fear of the unknown. Fear that we would become sick or that we would bring illness to our loved ones. 

There was also a fear that we would be tasked with caring for many more very ill patients. There was so much unknown. 

We worked to provide adequate personal protective equipment and support to our staff. We took advantage of every financial aid option available to us to obtain PPE and to be able to provide our staff with time off as needed. The American Recovery Plan funding and the payroll protection programs were huge assets to us. 

We also took advantage of grant funding to purchase air sanitizers for our building and ambulances to ensure a clean working environment. We did have to transition to primarily online education processes to ensure that we were able to keep up on training topics without creating unnecessary exposures. 

We also had to take steps to limit that number of people in our building and work to create safe working spaces that allowed for physical distancing whenever possible. Again, credit goes to the staff, many of whom are volunteers, for their flexibility and courage facing this pandemic.

How does being located in a smaller town impact your business and the work that you do?  

We love our small community, and we love being able to care for our neighbors and families. Rural work does present some unique challenges to us. It is harder to recruit and maintain ideal staffing levels and our access to resources is limited at times. 

We are funded by support from eight different municipalities, and we know the struggle of these municipalities when it comes to budgeting and financial distribution. We work hard to maintain a balanced budget and to be good custodians of the resources we are allocated. 

We benefit from enormous support from business and public service partners, community members, the Ellsworth Community School District and individuals throughout our community.

Small communities are filled with some of the best people around.

What do you want to share with the community about your business?

We are a non-profit paramedic level municipal ambulance service. We have five full-time staff and roughly 30 paid-on-call and volunteer staff. We serve an area of approximately 210 square miles in seven towns and one village. We also provide support to our neighboring EMS agencies. 

We have provided low-cost CPR training to hundreds of people across Pierce County. We are very proud to partner with a number of other organizations including Pierce County EMS, Ellsworth Fire and Police departments, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and Pierce County Dispatch.

Do you have any exciting events coming up in 2022?

We are looking forward to providing EMS support to several public events this summer and fall, including the Bay City hill climbs, the FFA truck and tractor pull and all of the great Pierce County Fair events. 

We are beginning to plan for our annual fall fundraiser, which will be in September of this year. We will again be having a food stand fundraiser as well as auctioning off quite a few great prizes. Please check our Facebook page in the coming months for more information about these fundraising events.

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