NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Since it was founded nearly 30 years ago, Valley Emergency Medical Service has never had a home to call its own.
In 1984, recognized by former President Ronald Regan as the first volunteer regional paramedic service on the East Coast, VEMS was based out of Griffin Hospital in Derby.
When the service outgrew its space at the hospital, VEMS moved its operations in 2005 to Oxford Ambulance headquarters on Oxford Road, or Route 67, in Oxford. According to Executive Director Robert Pettinella, Oxford Ambulance provided office space at no cost, while the medic units remained based out of Griffin.
In recent years, Pettinella said with the implementation of an executive director, the nonprofit organization has "significantly grown both in volume and in the number of units it deploys."
Needless to say, more space to house VEMS operations was a must.
And on Saturday during an open house, the public will have an opportunity to visit VEMS' new home as it leases space at 300 Oxford Road in Oxford.
Pettinella said VEMS has grown from one paramedic medical intensive care unit in 1984 to six units today. VEMS' roster currently includes 26 medics, two field supervisors and an executive director.
The open house is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m., and Pettinella said it will be an excellent opportunity to showcase the newly renovated space, as well as give the public a glimpse of the services VEMS provides.
"VEMS has always attempted to be financially conservative with the little funding it gets from the towns and with what money it collects from private insurance and private pay individuals," Pettinella said. "As a result, we have taken a very long time to get to the point where VEMS can afford its own building."
Pettinella said VEMS is leasing the building, which formerly housed Haynes Materials, for $2,200 a month. VEMS spent about $15,000 in renovations to the building. Costs were kept down as Pettinella said he and the staff did some of the work themselves.
"The new facility allows VEMS to house its out-of-service units in a heated garage, gives its employees a place to call home and also allows for operational expansion as the business continues to grow," Pettinella added.
The open house will feature free blood pressure screenings and blood sugar checks; "touch a truck" activities and bounce houses for kids; free food and drinks. Local EMS units will display their equipment.
VEMS came under scrutiny late last year, not for its operations, but rather concerns about its Board of Directors. Its treasurer was allowed to take a brand new company vehicle out of state and got into an accident, which police deemed was not her fault. Valley mayors, who pay an annual fee to VEMS, felt the incident was swept under the rug, and have called for an investigation into the matter. A report is expected at the Valley Council of Governments meeting in June.