Lakewood has produced more than its fair share of community figures that work hard for the greater good. Over the years, we’ve heard numerous accounts of volunteerism from township residents across a diverse range of backgrounds, and it’s one of the many things that make our community great.
One of the good neighbors that characterize Lakewood’s spirit of volunteerism is Simcha Shain, the founder
We sat down with Simcha to learn more about his business and how his upbringing in Lakewood has shaped his career. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you get involved in emergency medical services?
Ever since I was a little kid, my dad was a volunteer in Lakewood First Aid and one of the first members in Lakewood Hatzolah. It’s what I had always wanted to do. My EMS career began in 1993, starting out in Howell First Aid Squad. I joined in March of 1993, and became a life member in 2000.
Tell us more about Lakewood Hatzolah.
I joined Lakewood Hatzolah in 1996, and have been an active member for almost 23 years. I became a paramedic in 2007.
It’s community-based, and we cover Lakewood, parts of Jackson, Toms River, and surrounding areas. We cover mutual aid in the event that the 911 Paramedic Units aren’t available. We’ll actually cover mutual aid for them. We currently have 18 paramedics in our squad, as well as 105 members, 13 ambulances, and three active paramedic trucks.
What’s something people might not know about the squad?
We cover 30-50 calls per day, more than most volunteer squads in the state. We were formed in 1981, and haven’t missed a single call since our inception. We have a waiting list of 100 EMS volunteers that want to join the squad.
We look at every request as an opportunity to help someone in need. It’s a tremendous blessing to be able to do this work.
How did ParaFlight EMS get its start?
A close friend of mine, Steve Zakheim, had an ambulance company in New York City. He used his private jet, outfitted with oxygen and a stretcher, to send EMS volunteers like myself all over the country to provide relief to those in need. These were all charity cases, and often consisted of transporting people to specialty hospitals. I’d be sent to various airports, jump on a plane, and get to work.
He passed away from 9/11-related exposure after volunteering at the scene, but before he died, he told me to take his jet and utilize it on my own. That’s how it all started.
What makes your company different from others in the space?
We’re a little different than other businesses because most are profit-driven, while we never turn down a job due to lack of funds. For the most part, if there’s anything we can do to help someone, we will. We’ve taken people to and from the U.K., Switzerland, Guatemala, Germany, and Israel.
We also provide aircraft for organ transplant teams, and fly to recover, hearts, lungs, and other vital organs in order to preserve life.
What have been some of the most rewarding experiences of your career?
One year ago, two urgently sick children were stranded in Beachwood, TX, without the ability to get to a hospital for treatment. Upon hearing of the situation, we contacted the Asbury Park Press, offering free assistance, and were able to connect with the children’s father. We then flew out our own personnel, which included a flight physician, a neonatologist, a NICU nurse, a logistics manager, and myself. We picked them up in Texas, flew them back to Lakewood, and transported them in one of our solo ambulances to a Newark hospital, where they got the treatment they needed. We still follow the children’s progress on social media. It was a tremendous blessing.
One of our proudest accomplishments was flying 22 children to Israel, none of whom were previously able to travel. 11 or 12 were in wheelchairs, and a few were on ventilators. We spent 10 days with them, traveling throughout Israel, which allowed them to have a life-changing experience that previously seemed impossible. This was done through the Birthright Organization, and it was their first medical trip.
Has your urge to help been the result of your upbringing in this area?
I was taught to always be ready, willing, and able to give and share. That was ingrained in me from a very young age.
Any fortune we have, we try to share with others. Volunteerism is respected and encouraged in this community, and there are so many organizations that are here to help people.