SO Rescue Squad cuts ribbon at Sloan St. headquarters

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — On Saturday, June 11, the South Orange Rescue Squad celebrated the opening of its brand-new, state-of-the-art headquarters at 62 Sloan St. in South Orange, next door to the South Orange Fire Department.

The location features an ambulance bay for three ambulances and a first-responder vehicle, office, a storage area, a full kitchen, a meeting room, ample training space, showers and two bedrooms with two bunks each. It is a far cry from the cramped apartment on 4th Street that housed SORS for the last two years, ever since the previous headquarters was razed to make way for the Third and Valley redevelopment.

SORS Capt. Dan Cohen is particularly excited about the new building.

“It’s hard to put into words what it means to us, but it once again feels like we have a home,” he told the News-Record. “Rescue Squad members spend a good deal of their lives at headquarters, and it really needs to be a second home, because we live here.”

“We definitely have a lot more space,” SORS President Melanie Troncone told the News-Record. “2016 has been dubbed ‘The Year of Training’ for the rescue squad. Now, with the new building, we can really beef up our classes in order to attract and maintain membership, keep up on our skills and educate the public.”

Troncone and Cohen were joined by other SORS members, community leaders and various distinguished guests at the ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony that took place before a large crowd of community members who gathered to show support.

Troy Balog and Lissa Solano, in their capacities as crew chiefs and Event Committee co-chairpersons for SORS, were instrumental in organizing the day; they welcomed everyone to the ribbon-cutting and thanked event sponsors.

Troncone then thanked South Orange Village, the Department of Public Works, the South Orange Fire Department, the South Orange Police Department, Robbie Conley Architect, PEM Construction and Development Company and SORS members past and present for their dedication to the project. She also thanked the public for its generosity and for helping SORS win a $25,000 grant toward the construction from the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Program.

“The outpouring of support and donations from each and every one of you makes it so we can do what we love to do and provide a service to the township that, in my opinion, is the best out there,” Troncone said. “Aside from personal donations, your ‘likes,’ shares and votes helped us to get a $25,000 grant from State Farm so we can have a brand new training room. When we saw the number of people voting and the amount of supporters reminding people to vote, we were floored.”

Her sincere gratitude was shared by SORS 1st Lt. Scott Egelberg, who followed her onstage. Egelberg echoed Troncone’s appreciation for major project donors, but especially thanked fellow members of the SORS family, such as former SORS President Sherry Weintraub and her husband Stephen; former SORS Capt. Don Boyle and his family; Dr. Elizabeth Martyn; and former SORS Capt. Steve Gray, who traveled all the way from Georgia to attend the ceremony. Finally, Egelberg thanked everyone in the community who donated money and time to the various fundraising efforts associated with the project.

Cohen, who has been with SORS since 1990, then returned to the podium. After thanking the families of SORS members for sacrificing time with their loved ones so that SORS can save lives, he described how vital training and the space in which to conduct it are to SORS.

“One of the biggest things we have been lacking for two years is an adequate training space,” he said. “Training is critical to what we do. We are constantly training our members, and without a place to do it, that is nearly impossible.

“Now, we have gone from having no training space to having two great areas within the building that we use for training,” Cohen continued before being formally presented with the State Farm grant in the form of a large check onstage.

Cohen also said the SORS trains the police to do CPR every year, and he described how police Det. Steven Davenport had utilized that training to save the life of his neighbor, Tim Callahan, who collapsed and went into cardiac arrest a year ago. Davenport was recognized with a special “CPR Save Award” and both he and Callahan expressed their gratitude to the crowd.

Village President Sheena Collum also had nothing but praise for the rescue service.

“I don’t think there is a single volunteer opportunity more important than saving lives,” Collum said.

At the event state Assemblywoman Mila Jasey presented SORS with an official proclamation for the new building and recounted how SORS had served her family personally, helping to locate her brother, who has Down syndrome, after he once wandered away.

Following the speeches, the new building was dedicated to Mary Connor, a former longtime SORS president who first joined the squad in 1969. Connor devoted more than 40 years of her life to SORS prior to her death in July 2015.

“Mary Connor was an institution,” Cohen said. “She dedicated herself to the community, and everyone knew her. When it came time for her to stop riding (with SORS), she did not go out without a fight. She always wanted to be helping people and had to be convinced that it was time to stop. She remained a ‘squad mother and grandmother’ to all of us. We are honored to have Mary’s sister and many of her family members here today.

“When she died, the funeral procession, including a line of ambulances, police cars and fire trucks, made a swing down Sloan Street and up 3rd, past the construction site of this building and the site of our former home. We dedicate this building to her many years of service to the community.”

With those words, Cohen, Troncone and SORS Treasurer Jeff Hark, who kept the project within budget while making sure that SORS had everything it needed in its new home, cut the ribbon with a large pair of shears, joined by the rest of the squad.

Afterward, the crowd and SORS mingled, enjoying music by InTune Music School, tours of the new building and ambulances, complimentary refreshments, and facepainting for the children.

To learn more about the South Orange Rescue Squad or to volunteer, visit

Photo Courtesy of Arlene J. Lester and Cynthia Burks