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By DAVID CAMPHOUSE
In the absence of a long-term, sustainable funding source, Winchester EMS continues to rely on community fundraisers to pay for much needed equipment upgrades.
One of the most important fundraisers for the EMS service is the annual chili cook-off and salsa contest, which will take place at the EMS building on Saturday, Jan. 29 from 12-8 p.m.
According to Winchester EMS service’s Jennifer McMillen, the cook-off routinely brings in thousands of dollars, used to purchase life-saving supplies and equipment.
This year, Winchester EMS Administrator Randy Dolen said that a priority for the agency is purchasing two mechanical cardiac compression machines, which will cost, according to Dolen, approximately $33,000.
Dolen said the CPR machines are needed by Winchester EMS, because the ambulance service lacks adequate personnel.
“Right now we’re trying to do our job with a lack of people,” Dolen said. “We’re down to about four people. Doing CPR with four people just doesn’t work very well.”
Compounding the lack of EMS personnel, Dolen said that Winchester EMS has seen an unprecedented number of ambulance calls and calls which require CPR to be used on patients.
“I don’t know if it’s COVID or what, but we’ve gotten more calls this year,” Dolen said. “We’ve seen an uptick in CPR calls, too.”
According to McMillen, registration for the annual chili cook-off and salsa contest is open from now until the day of the contest.
The registration fee for the chili contest is $25 per team. Teams may enter the chili and salsa contest for $35. General admission to the event is $5.
Dolen said residents are also donating directly to Winchester EMS to help the ambulance service purchase critical supplies.
“We’ve got a Venmo account,” Dolen said. “People are making donations there, too. We’ve been starting to get some decent donations.”
In addition, to the ambulance service’s fundraising efforts, at least one local business – Willow Branch Boutique – is stepping up to donate money to the EMS service.
“From last Wednesday to this Wednesday, we are donating 100 percent of our sales,” Willow Branch owner Jessica Handy said.
According to Handy, the ambulance service is a necessity in the community.
“It’s something we need,” Handy said.
To register for the chili/salsa competition or for information on donating to Winchester EMS, residents are encouraged to call the Winchester EMS building at 217-742-3467 or McMillen at 217-248-9692.