Vermont Business Magazine UVM Rescue has moved into its new facility, under construction since May. The group had been waiting for furniture to be purchased and installed before it could occupy the new building, which was completed in October. Located on the south end of the parking lot at 284 East Avenue, the new building is a vast improvement over the old headquarters, a cramped, boxy addition to UVM Police Services built in 1975 that could accommodate only one of the group’s two ambulances and had inadequate space for training sessions, near continuous in the rescue field.
The new building boasts two large ambulance bays in a heated garage, two bunk rooms with four beds each, a common room where volunteers can train, wait for calls and eat, a large kitchen with modern appliances, two bathrooms with showers, a conference/study room, a work-out area, and laundry and supply storage space.
UVM Rescue has 18 undergraduates members and about 10 UVM alumni.
“The new building will provide students more opportunity to train, prepare for emergencies and finally have a facility that reflects the organization,” said Zach Borst, UVM's emergency manager and the group's advisor.
"It will also be a huge recruiting tool," he said. The squad recently begun staffing its second truck during major emergencies on campus or in the greater Burlington area. "They can now keep both ambulances stocked and ready inside the station, something they have never been able to do in the past," Borst said.
No ordinary student club
UVM Rescue is a student club, but its mission extends far beyond the university’s borders.
In its early years, it largely served only the campus. But as time went on, “the importance of UVM Rescue to the greater Burlington community has grown, and the size of the squad group grew,” said UVM’s associate vice president for administrative and facilities services Bill Ballard, an alumnus of UVM and UVM Rescue and the club’s advisor for 25 years.
Today UVM Rescue remains the first-response unit for the UVM campus but serves as back-up for many other communities. It responded to 1,600 calls last year and made 1,200 transports, making it one of the busiest ambulance squads in the state.
The group “is absolutely an integral part of Emergency Medical Service” in Chittenden County, said Phil Holt, a member of Richmond Rescue who attended the dedication. “They respond to our service area when we’re out of service call and need coverage. They know their stuff, and they work really hard.”
“The citizens of Burlington rely on them,” added Burlington fire chief Steve Locke, another attendee. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
UVM president Tom Sullivan, one of the speakers at the dedication ceremony of the new building in early October and an advocate for the new facility from the first days of his presidency, had an inside track on the contribution UVM Rescue makes, not only to the community, but to the students who serve in it. His nephew was a member of the group.
"He speaks so highly of UVM Rescue,” Sullivan said. “Every time he comes back to Burlington, the first place he comes is right here. My wife Leslie and I had drunk the Kool-Aid before I got here.”
Alumni of UVM Rescue have stellar track records, Ballard said. Many have gone on to careers in the health professions.
The old facility had its charms, according to UVM Rescue veterans, but only to a point.
“There was a lot of camaraderie,” said Ned Rimer, ’83, a professor in Boston University’s business school, who served in UVM Rescue all four of his years at UVM. “We made meals for each other and we got to know each other really well.”
“But having an adequate place to sleep and study and train? That would have been huge. I’ve been dreaming of this day for 37 years.”
For Baillargeon, move-in was a welcome culmination of a project years in the making.
“The whole squad was just so ready,” she said. “As one of the speakers at the dedication said, we were ready to sleep on the floor just because everyone is so ecstatic to have this kind of structure here.”
UVM Rescue is self-funded through payments made for its services. The new building will be paid for through a combination of private gifts and both past and future revenues generated by the service.