Lynchburg, VA - For nearly eight decades, the Lynchburg Life Saving & First Aid Crew has answered the call to serve.
But beginning January 1, the city is removing it from the 911 response system, much to the disappointment of volunteers.
They've been running on their own private donations with little or no help from the city. But lately there just haven't been enough volunteers, and that's what prompted the city to pull the plug.
"We're one of the oldest rescue squads in the country and I don't want us to just disappear," Joyce Sachs said inside the crew's headquarters on Memorial Avenue.
Last week Lynchburg's Fire Chief told the president of the Lynchburg Life Saving Crew that their services are no longer needed and they won't be able to answer 911 calls on their own.
"It's very sad," Sachs said of the decision.
She says in July, the city stopped paying up to $15,000 in fuel expenses and cut grant money that the volunteer organization used to split with the fire department.
Mayor Mike Gillette says the reason is simple: the Lynchburg Life Saving Crew does not have enough volunteers to reliably service a unit.
While Sachs admits the number of volunteers has gone down by about 50 % in the last decade, she doesn't understand what the city gains from cutting them out of calls.
"I am very proud of the work they've done and the history that's been here and I think that's worth something in the community," she said.
The city says it drains city resources.
"If we're gonna have to coordinate with another group in order to share a call that takes planning, it takes staff time," Mayor Gillette explained.
He says they responded to just .6 % of the roughly 23,000 emergency calls the city received last year.
"We're talking about life saving here. We're talking about 911 calls," Gillette said.
The Lynchburg Life Saving's board of directors will meet this month. Sachs says one option they'll discuss is focusing on training EMTs and teaching CPR classes.
If they can get more volunteers, the mayor says the city could reconsider using their services.