50 Years of Service to the Sun City Center Community
For over 50 years, the Sun City Center Emergency Squad has served the residents of the greater SCC community. Through the dedication and determination of many individuals, the Squad has provided emergency services to the community as a true example of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”
The first residents moved into the retirement village of Sun City Center (SCC) in 1961. The village, located on State Road 674 east of Route 41, was built by the Del Webb corporation and soon received the motto “A Community Too Busy to Retire.”
Ground breaking for the first SCC Emergency Services building. Ray Watson is pictured with a spade on the left. Del Webb holds the other spade, on the right.
Ray Watson was an early SCC resident with the vision and foresight to recognize the need for emergency medical services in the community and organized the Emergency Squad in 1964. The Squad consisted of 20 volunteer residents with Ray Watson as the first Chief. He served in that capacity for eight years.
The initial volunteers completed a Red Cross course in basic and advanced first aid. The community was divided into four areas and a response team was assigned to each area. Each team had a Captain and Assistant Captain and a station wagon was used as transportation to respond to calls. The closest hospital was Tampa General, which could take as much as one and half hours to reach.
During the 1960s, ambulances were owned and operated by funeral homes and morticians. On many occasions, the Squad called upon the local funeral home to transport patients to the hospital. This service came to a halt when the state passed legislation requiring all Florida ambulances to have a two-person crew available on a 24-hour basis. The funeral directors decided they could not meet this requirement and generally discontinued their participation.
Original Squad 1964
Front Row (L to R): C. Sheets, M. Snell, Wm. McLaughlin, R. Frazer, Instructor S. Kresge, Chairmain R. Watson, R. Smith
Back Row: C. Sweet, J. O’Leary, Instructor C.Wagner, R. Moore, G. Strelow, H. Christner, C. Caleb, E. McAdow, E. Rowlands, H. Crist
With the new Florida legislation, the Squad was faced with the need to purchase an ambulance and continue round the clock services for the SCC residents. Each household donated $25 towards the purchase of the first ambulance, which was just three months prior a hearse owned by the funeral home.
Sun City Center expanded rapidly after the first ambulance was purchased and it was evident a second ambulance would shortly be needed. Today the fleet consists of four full-equipped ambulances and two wheelchair vans.
In 1968, the Squad was organized into five teams. Each team had a Captain and Assistant Captain, who also served as the dispatcher. Every fifth week a different team was on duty 24 hours a day for all seven days. This schedule was very strenuous and presented many difficulties for the volunteers. A more suitable arrangement was made by increasing to eight teams, each working one 24-hour period every 8 days.
An early, undated picture of the Squad
In 1973, the Florida legislature mandated that an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) accompany a patient on every ambulance run. This necessitated that Squad volunteers complete a college-level course in emergency medical training. Warren Estlack and Betty Peterson, both members of the Hillsborough Community College faculty as well as Squad volunteers, taught the initial EMT classes. By 1982, the Squad had 34 EMTs.
In 1978 a decision was made to build a new Squad headquarters. General William Battell and Gilmore Hiett lead the community drive to raise funds for the new building. The new Squad house was dedicated in 1979. In addition to capacity to house four ambulances and extensive equipment loan area, training and conference rooms were created.
Tremendous growth continued in Sun City Center, as did the size of the Squad. The headquarters on Ray Watson Drive have been enlarged twice to accommodate the Squad’s growth. Visitors can see an enormous amount of activity on any day at the Squad headquarters. In addition to one of the eight teams on duty, a plethora of training sessions vied for space to train and upgrade Emergency Medical Technicians, First Responders, drivers, dispatchers and others who carry out Squad activities.
It became obvious that more space was needed as Sun City Center continued to grow. The Squad found itself in a dilemma: reduce service or reduce quality of service. A window of opportunity opened when the new Hillsborough County Fire Station #28 was completed on SR 674. The County Commissioners deeded the old firehouse on South Pebble Beach Boulevard to the Emergency Squad. After successful fund raising efforts and major renovations were completed, the Sun City Center Emergency Squad Training Center was ready for occupancy.
Chief Marty Mallak, Al Seifert, Mike Anderson, Dick Morrison and construction foreman.
Further renovations were undertaken and completed at the headquarters building so that growing response teams and administrative personnel would have the space necessary to carry out their duties efficiently.
Today, the Squad has grown to 440 volunteers. We have 4 ambulances, 2 of which are in service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The Squad is licensed by the State of Florida as a Basic Life Support Emergency unit. We maintain a close working relationship with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and we average over 5,000 emergency runs per year. It is estimated that we save the taxpayers of this county approximately 4.5 million dollars per year.
We have grown tremendously in 50 years. From a hearse to 4 ambulances, from 20 volunteers to 440, to a new training center and a fully renovated and expanded headquarters – yet our mission has always been the same. We are “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”
Raymond Watson, 1964-1974
John Doerfher, 1974-1977
Allison Slaymaker, 1977
Mason Logan, 1977
Al Blake, 1977-1979
Art Rescorla, 1980-1983
William Cook, 1984-1985
Gregg Geiger, 1986-1988
Dorsey R. Frazee, 1989-1990
Joseph Cianciolo, 1991
John Cortese, 1992
Marge Ives, 1993
Jim Trettel, 1994-1995
Jim Miller, 1996
Charles Caponi, 1997
Jim Trettel, 1998
Patricia Leahy, 1999-2000
Herb McKittrick, 2001-2002
Jack Frobose, 2003-2004
Marty Mallak, 2005
Mike Anderson, 2006-2007
Christine Patrick, 2008-2009
Michael Jackson, 2010-2011
Noreen Shramm, 2012-2014
Dennis Floto 2014-2016
Robert Leonard 2016-2017
Mike Bardell 2017 – Present