Neighbors helping neighbors in rural Iola
Northwest First Responders help save lives
By Jane Myhra
Neighbors helping neighbors was the simple formula used 30 years ago to begin the Northwest First Responders.
Jon and Bonnie Beyer were the driving force behind the volunteer group’s formation.
Bonnie recalled being approached by her CPR instructor, Jim VanKuren, in regard to starting a First Responder group in the Iola area.
“I had no idea what this group was about,” she said. “He explained that it would give people (in rural areas) a chance to have medical intervention sooner as we would be responding from our home, and it would give additional support to the ambulance services.”
The Beyers agreed that earlier response times could help save lives in the rural towns. Jon believed earlier intervention may have saved his father’s life, and he wouldn’t have died of a heart attack at the age of 54.
“We felt that if we in anyway could spare another family the sorrow we had gone through, we wanted to give this a try,” Bonnie said.
The couple became certified under the direction of VanKuren, who was an EMT with the Clintonville Ambulance Service.
In order to purchase the necessary equipment, the Beyers collected donations from neighbors and flipped burgers at several events. Snooky Matowitiz donated the money for them to buy their first jump kits.
“It took us a while to get some of the ambulance people to get onboard because they were not sure of the type of training we had and what value we would be to their service,” Bonnie said. “In time we earned the respect of the people in the country, as well as the ambulance services because they could see that it made things easier and faster in the care they were able to provide or receive.”
As one of only a few First Responder groups in the state, the Northwest First Responders were asked to help set up guidelines and rules. VanKuren represented the group in Madison.
“I have watched these groups go from infancy to adults, from groups with basic training to groups that have grown with updated equipment to education far beyond what we thought we would ever get to see,” Bonnie said. “We stand back and realize how far we have come and feel great pride in the fact that we were part of this.”
The Beyers credit their success to the towns that sponsored them – Iola, Wyoming, Harrison and Helvetia.
“They believed in our value,” Bonnie said.
The Beyers recently retired from serving as First Responders.
“They were extremely dedicated to serving their neighbors,” said Deb Barton, service director of the Northwest First Responders. “They dedicated 30 years of their lives to this organization.”