In our new feature 'A Cup of Coffee With...' we'll be learning more about a Westfield resident. Suggestions for a Westfielder who deserves the spotlight would be greatly appreciated and can be emailed to Liz Alterman.
Patch recently had the opportunity to share a cup of coffee with President Reid Edles.
When Edles, his wife and infant daughter moved to Westfield 26 years ago, the former Washington D.C. police detective decided he wanted to get to know the community better by volunteering.
After reading an advertisement in a local paper, Edles attended a recruiting drive for the rescue squad on what he recalled was "a freezing, cold January day."
Since that day, Edles has responded to thousands of calls, delivered two babies and saved countless lives.
"The adrenaline starts pumping and you do what you were trained to do," Edles said. "Are you apprehensive sometimes? Yes. But you don't have time to think about it."
Edles said one of the things that makes him most proud of the rescue squad is that it doesn't cost the town a penny.
"We're probably the best kept secret in town and we're the best bargain in town," he said. "We're in the business of saving lives and we do it for free. We're all volunteers, 100 percent. We are not a municipal entity. We save the town millions of dollars and we save the residents lot of money, too."
Edles explained that the squad holds an annual fundraising drive each spring. Letters—13,000 of them—are mailed to residents in March and April asking for donations. Of that number, 20 percent respond to the squad's call for help.
"People are very generous," said Edles. "We use that money to purchase equipment. We have a state-of-the-art ambulance. We were the first in the county to have a defibrillator because we had the funds. All our ambulances carry EpiPens—two for adults and two for pediatrics. They expire after one year. It gets expensive and that's something other squads don't have. We're pioneers in providing the best services."
Edles said the all-volunteer squad, the largest in Union County with 70 riding members, is always actively recruiting.
"We offer a lot of incentives," Edles explained. "We offer child care reimbursement. We try to make it fun. We have volunteers as young as 16 (years old) on dispatch and people in their senior years. It's a friendly environment. We've got a blend of young and old and a 50-50 male-to-female ratio."
What impresses Edles most is youth.
"This is the future of the rescue squad. These kids are the nucleus of the squad," he said.
Edles is also proud of the aid his squad has provided during larger-scale emergencies.
"We always have somebody there 24/7, not too many rescue squads can boast that," he said. "We were very active during 9/11. We had two ambulances with 10 EMTs there within an hour. They were diverted to Liberty State Park were they treated patients. After that we sent ambulances in for 12-hour shifts for rescue and recovery for two weeks."
In June, Edles retired from his career with the Turnpike Authority and he said looks forward to devoting more of his free time to the squad.
"There's great satisfaction in helping someone, in telling someone who says, 'I'm having a heart attack, I'm going to die,' 'It's going to be okay.' We all do it for the satisfaction of helping someone. We must, right? Because we certainly don't do it for the money," Edles laughed.
*Note: Reid Edles takes his coffee black, with the occasional Sweet 'N Low, most often at on Central Avenue, though the day we met with him he enjoyed a cup at .