Antioch Rescue disbands, donates funds to community

Remaining funds shared by 6 entities

  • The Antioch Rescue Squad, based at 835 Holbeck Drive in Antioch, has officially disbanded.

      The Antioch Rescue Squad, based at 835 Holbeck Drive in Antioch, has officially disbanded. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/19/2016 6:26 PM

The Antioch Rescue Squad has officially disbanded and donated more than $491,000 in remaining funds to the village of Antioch, the First Fire Protection District of Antioch, and various charities and community groups, village officials announced Tuesday.

Antioch and the fire protection district will split a $245,746 donation, while the Antioch Open Arms Mission, the PM&L Theater, the Antioch Historical Society, and the Antioch Area Healthcare Accessibility Alliance will split another $245,746, officials said in a news release.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The donations to the fire protection district and the village would be used to provide emergency medical services handled by the Antioch Fire Department, officials said. The village board and the fire district board will announce plans for how the donated money will be used in the coming weeks, officials said.

"We appreciate the intent in which the money was put forth to assist the fire department in continuing its mission of delivering EMS to the community," Antioch Fire Chief John Nixon said. "The money will certainly help our operation to provide quality care to our residents."

Former Antioch Rescue Squad Chief Brian DeKind could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Antioch Rescue Squad, a fixture in the village since 1938, ceased daily operations in May 2014 after a series of ethical and legal controversies raised troubling questions and concerns about the once-venerable volunteer organization.

The problems started in 2012 when a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by three former rescue squad members against several colleagues and high-ranking rescue squad officials. That lawsuit led to an investigation into the rescue squad by the Illinois Department of Public Health that revealed members mistreated patients on calls, abused medications, and allowed employees to begin shifts within hours of excessively drinking alcohol.

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During the investigation, a former Antioch Rescue Squad treasurer was charged with stealing from the organization. He later pleaded guilty to theft of more than $10,000.

Several months later, Chief Wayne Sobczak retired and squad President Steve Smouse stepped down. Chief Brian DeKind and rescue squad President Todd Thommes took over the organization.

The problems led to a shake-up in emergency services in the Antioch area.

The village of Antioch pulled out of its contract with the rescue squad in May 2013 and contracted with the Antioch Fire Department for ambulance service. The squad continued to serve township residents for a year until the fire protection district board did not renew its contract in May 2014. The board decided to contract rescue services with the fire department to consolidate all village and township fire and rescue services under one agency.

The Antioch Fire Department now handles fire and rescue services in Antioch and Antioch Township. It is funded by and receives oversight from the village of Antioch, Antioch Township, and the First Fire Protection District of Antioch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After losing its contract with the fire district, squad officials donated ambulances and other emergency equipment to departments outside the Antioch area. That angered Antioch fire officials who said the equipment was purchased, in part, with funds raised by the community the squad served.

In Tuesday's village announcement about the donations, squad officials stressed the importance of continuing the group's "altruistic spirit of community service."

"In winding down the squad's business, it was important to ARS's leadership to continue the altruistic spirit of community service that has so motivated ARS's volunteers for the 75 years they have served the residents of Antioch," the statement read. "ARS believes this distribution of its funds will benefit the Antioch community and its residents for many years to come."

Disband: Rescue Squad's legal problems began with harassment suit in 2012

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