MORTON — The dozen full-time paramedics in the Morton Fire Department want to do more in the community than help people during a medical emergency.
So in 2014, a year after forming a union, they established the Morton Paramedic Local 4952 Charitable Foundation.
Under the foundation's name, they've continued to donate money and time and raise funds for charitable causes. For example, over the past few years paramedics have:
* Conducted blood pressure screenings at senior living communities.
* Hosted an American Red Cross blood drive.
* Rang bells for the Salvation Army.
* Served lemonade for a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Carson's Lemonade Raid.
* Helped a village of Morton employee who was having financial issues because of a health problem.
* Made donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
* Worked at a Habitat for Humanity home that was under construction.
* Sold pink T-shirts to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer.
* Spoken during Brown Bag It talks at the Morton Public Library.
* Contributed to Washington tornado cleanup.
The paramedics' next event is judging a chili cook-off Oct. 26 at Morton Terrace HealthCare and Rehabilitation Centre.
Joe Yerly, a Morton paramedic since 2000 after serving for four years as a Morton volunteer firefighter, said the money raised by paramedics isn't used for collective bargaining or other union-related business.
"It's strictly to help those in need and charities. We vote as a group what to spend the money on and events we participate in," said Yerly, one of three paramedic shift supervisors.
"We want to be a positive light in the community," Yerly said. "We're blessed to work for the village of Morton and we want to give back."
Initially, paramedics donated their own money to causes. They ramped up those efforts last year with the establishment of a golf outing.
The paramedics used $2,500 of the $3,000 they raised in the inaugural outing to start an endowment fund with the Morton Community Foundation.
An endowment fund's principal is never spent. Proceeds from investments fund grants.
The paramedics' second annual golf outing was Sept. 9 at Quail Meadows in East Peoria.
It isn't known how much money was raised because not all invoices have been submitted, Yerly said, "but the amount should be more than last year."
Yerly said the paramedics particularly enjoy doing blood pressure screenings for senior citizens.
"As you can imagine, we generally see these folks in an emergency and it can be scary for them," he said.
"At the screenings, we want to show these senior home residents that we're real people. We spend time talking to them about their families, where they retired from ... we also encourage them to ask us questions about fall prevention and what to do in an emergency, and remind them to take their medications and visit their doctor regularly."
The paramedics also provide information on their Facebook page.
Recent posts have discussed sepsis awareness, when to go the emergency room and when to go to an urgent care facility.
"We don't discuss specific patients on our Facebook page. It's general information," Yerly said.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.