Normally the Shore Memorial Hospital Ambulance Department’s job is to transport patients who need immediate care to the emergency room, or patients that have been treated, back home.
But lately instead of transporting patients, they’ve been transporting toys.
The Shore Memorial Ambulance Department recently ended its 2nd Annual Holiday Food and Toy Drive and was able to fill a large ambulance with donations. The goodies are bound for the Grace Lutheran Church Food Pantry of Somers Point and local Toys for Tots distribution centers.
“Right now there are a lot of people out there who don’t have enough food or enough money to buy toys and food for their kids,” says Steve Grecco, Coordinator of Shore Memorial’s ambulance services. “We want to make sure the community knows we’re here to help. This is a way that the hospital extends its walls to the community.”
In 2008, the ambulance squad raised between $3,000 and $4,000 worth of toy, cash and food donations. This year, Grecco estimates that the squad raised at least three times that amount.
“It’s very difficult to ask people to take their hard earned money or gifts or food and freely give it to somebody else,” Grecco said. “Especially this year.”
The emergency medical technicians, who transport between 4-5,000 patients per year, wrote letters to local businesses asking for help, and were permitted to put drop locations at ShopRite in Somers Point, This and That Uniforms in Pleasantville and Outback Steakhouse in Egg Harbor Township.
The donations ranged from cans of soup, baby formula and juice to children’s books and CD players.
With this year’s donation drive behind him, Grecco already has his sites set on next year.
“My ultimate goal is to fill and 18-wheeler,” Grecco says. “So I told my guys, ‘If you want me out of here, fill up an 18-wheeler and I’ll retire.’”