St. John Ambulance volunteer honoured

Organization is looking for new recruits for Maple Ridge

Russell Newcombe just wanted a first aid course for work, but he wound up getting bitten by the kindness bug that gets so many dedicated volunteers.

The Pitt Meadows man works for West Coast Express as a station attendant, and in 2001 he needed training to deal with potential medical emergencies. He took a basic, one-day first aid course through St. John Ambulance, and he’s been involved with the group ever since. His relationship with the volunteer first-responder organization has evolved to where most people would consider it a part-time job.

“It’s interesting work, and you get to see a lot of community events,” he said.

Newcombe was recently honoured by B.C. Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon in a ceremony at Government House, where he was given the Order of St. John. His citation says:

“Russell Newcombe has been a highly dedicated volunteer member of St. John Ambulance community services since his enrolment in 2001, averaging more than 300 hours of volunteer service per year.

“After only two years in the Brigade, he took on leadership roles leading to responsibility for the overall operation of an adult division and, more recently, supervision of the five Fraser Valley adult divisions as Area Superintendent.  He continues to remain active as a medical first responder at community events.”

Newcombe and a group of about 30 volunteers are on hand for marathons like the Haney to Harrison Run, motorcycle races and the Caribbean Festival.

The funds they receive in donations from appreciative community groups are put back into the St. John organization, to provide more training, equipment and uniforms.

“We’re a step and a half below a paramedic,” said Newcombe, who has much respect for them.

The St. John volunteers are able to do critical things, like assess and stabilize patients, do CPR, stop bleeds and treat shock.

St. John members deserve a different kind of credit, because they do their work as community service.

Some of the people who volunteer with St. John are hoping to become paramedics or firefighters.

The local group covers events in Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission, and Newcombe is also in a leadership role for the entire Fraser Valley. His official title is area supervisor, but the self-effacing Newcombe calls himself “the paperwork guy.”

It’s a good-sized organization. He works for five groups. The largest has 65 members in Surrey/Langley, and there are others for Tri-Cities, Central Fraser Valley (Abbotsford), Chilliwack and Maple Ridge.

The numbers for the local group are dwindling.

“It’s hard to get people to be committed,” said Newcombe. “I’m not that smart.”

• St. John Ambulance Maple Ridge: 604-467-1490.