MACKINAW — The Mackinaw Rescue Squad has some shiny new equipment thanks to a $4,250 grant it received earlier this year from the Mackinaw Stout Foundation.
The centerpiece is a motorized stair chair with a 500-pound weight capability that makes it easy for squad personnel to transport a patient down and up stairs, over tough terrain, even out of a ditch.
"We've never had a motorized chair," said Assistant Chief Margaret Donath. "In the past, it was lift, tug and hold on so the non-motorized chair wouldn't get away from us."
Help often was needed from Mackinaw Fire Department volunteer firefighters who were called to the scene.
Why? One reason is 11 of the 16 Rescue Squad members are women, including Chief Beverly Neville and Donath.
"The women (in the Rescue Squad) are pretty strong, but women don't have the body mass that men have," Donath said.
No lifting is needed with the new chair, which can be operated by one person, Donath said, although two used for safety reasons. And the new chair has a brake.
A non-motorized chair needs at least two people to operate it, Donath said.
Lori Carlson, a member of the Stout Foundation's volunteer board of directors, acted the role of a patient at a demonstration of the Rescue Squad's new chair last week on steps outside Mackinaw United Methodist Church.
"It was a smoother ride than I thought it would be," Carlson said.
Donath said the new chair has been used three times since the squad received it this fall, each time at a home. At one home, the patient was easily taken down 13 steps in two levels.
"Ninety person of the time, the chair will be used to get someone out of their home and onto their driveway," Donath said.
The grant also helped purchase 10 oxygen tanks and a mount for a laptop in the squad's ambulance. Including the $6,800 chair, total cost of the equipment came to about $8,500.
"We now own all of our oxygen tanks," Donath said. "In the past, we owned some and rented some. It will be cheaper to get the tanks filled now that we own them all. The new tanks will pay for themselves in a year."
The new equipment is much appreciated, Donath said. The squad is funded by taxpayers in the Mackinaw Fire Protection District (about $40 annually for a home valued at $100,000), donations and billing for ambulance runs.
Now that the squad has the new equipment, it needs more people to use it.
The squad is recruiting paid on-call volunteers and part-time personnel so it can more easily provide the Illinois Department of Public Health license-required 24/7 coverage in an area that spans about 36 square miles and has about 4,600 residents. The Rescue Squad responds to an average of 220 to 240 calls a year.
There are 10 EMT-B's (basic training), three first-responders and one ambulance driver who are paid on-call volunteers, and two part-time EMT-B's on the roster.
Those interested in joining should send their resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was the first year the squad, which was established in 1978, applied for a Stout Foundation grant.
The foundation was created by the late Elsie Stout, who died in 2010. Her husband, Clarence Stout, was an engineer who owned and operated a gold mine in Oregon from 1935 to 1942 and who died in 1992.
They donated time, energy and money to Mackinaw while they lived in the village, "very low-key and behind the scenes," said Stout Foundation treasurer and longtime Mackinaw attorney Mark McGrath.
Income from investments are used for grants that are awarded annually to not-for-profit organizations and government entities in Mackinaw and Mackinaw Township that promote recreational, educational, religious and civic activities.
Recipients must provide at least half the funding needed and fulfill the purpose of a grant in one year.
"That way, more grants are available and people can see what the grants are funding," Carlson said. "We don't want to fund a project that's going to take three years to complete."
There have been three grant cycles.
There were seven recipients in 2015, when $62,000 in grants were awarded. The largest grant — $50,000 — went to the Deer Creek-Mackinaw Educational Foundation, which was Elsie Stout's wish.
There were nine recipients of $21,040 worth of grants in 2016 and 12 recipients of $34,701 worth of grants in 2017.
For a grant application and other information, go to www.mackinawstoutfoundation.org.
Applications for the 2018 grant cycle will be accepted Jan. 1 through Feb. 28. The grant awards will be announced May 1.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.