LEASA celebrates 35 years, honors employees

Karissa Blackburn kblackburn@civitasmedia.com

May 18, 2014

Thurs., May 15, the Logan Emergency Ambulance Service Authority observed its 35th year of service to the local area with a dinner and awards ceremony for its employees and volunteers at Special Occasions in Yuma.

On March 5, 1979, the Logan County Commission took steps to improve the quality of life in the county by taking measures to provide for pre-hospital care for county residents.

Thirty five years and hundreds of thousands of calls later, the Ambulance Authority employees approximately 75 full time and part-time personnel, a fleet of 15 ambulances, and has one of only a few Critical Care Transport teams in the state.

In addition, the Logan Emergency Ambulance Service Authority operates several rescue programs including search and rescue, hazmat technicians, rope rescue, a dive team and structural rescue. Training for these teams has helped LEASA obtain a reputation statewide and has also resulted in many trophies awarded in state competition.

At the beginning of the ceremony, LEASA Director Roger Bryant gave his reasoning on why LEASA is so successful.

“It’s a recipe,” said Bryant. “You have to have all of these, or your program will be short-lived.”

The recipe went a little something like this: you have to have a real need for the program, a good board of directors that is only interested in seeing that the patients get the best care that’s possible, (we’ve been blessed with great), a county commission that’s committed to pre-hospital care (a time when our county commission took heat for being supporters) dedicated employees (best in the world, volunteers and employees) (cheerful not begrudgingly, because they care for the people in county)and the support of the local hospital and training institutions.

35 years ago, the area truly did have a need for the program. Before 1979, ambulance care had been managed by local funeral homes or private services. At times, patients had to pay for the service before being transported.

Senator Art Kirkendoll, who spoke at the ceremony, said he has had a difficult time fighting for LEASA’s services over the years because many wanted to privatize it.

“I told them that I’ve seen this industry privatized,” said Kirkendoll. “It’s not pretty. I don’t mind privatized business, but when it comes to safety, I want somebody that is trained to do the job.”

In addition to Bryant’s recipe, Kirkendoll had one other reason why LEASA’s program is so successful.

“It’s the people in this county that makes the difference,” he said. “I stood up during the senate meetings three times last year and told them how proud I was to represent the best people not only in West Virginia, but in America.”

County Commission President Danny Godby also had one addition to the recipe.

“Our people in Logan are the best,” said Godby. “We depend on, and our people acknowledge Him as the No. one thing: our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. That’s the reason this works so well; it all depends on that.”

A list of special guests that were honored during the ceremony included: Logan County Commission President Danny Godby; County Commissioner Danny Ellis; State Senator Art Kirkendoll; President of the The Aracoma Story Inc. Elizabeth Spurlock; Dean for Career and Technical Programs at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Pam Alderman; Coordinator for Emergency Medical Services at SWVCTC Kathy Deskins; Logan County Sheriff Sonya Porter; 911 Director Marylin Crosby and many others.

A moment of silence was held for Willard “Rocky” Blankenship, an employee and volunteer for LEASA for more than 26 years, who passed away April 26. Blankenship was unanimously awarded the Wayne Scaggs Award for Volunteerism, which is awarded by a vote from peers.

In addition, the company distributed awards in five other categories, honored their Board of Directors and distributed service pins to each worker and volunteer based on their years of service with LEASA. The pins went all the way up to 35 years.

A full list of award recipients is listed below:

EMT-B of the Year — Anthony Browning

EMT-P of the Year — Gregory “Shane” Christian

John H. Haddox Award for Growth — Kori White

Paul E. Hale Award for Contribution (Voted by the employees and volunteers of LEASA) — Douglas Fuller

Dispatcher of Emergency Medical Services — Joe Michaloff