SVAS Chief Jacquie Rice: Giving is How She Rolls

Housatonic Valley Regional High School (HVRHS) math teacher and Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Chief Jacquie Rice needs to be good with numbers to calculate how many hours she and her team have dedicated to the Town of Salisbury and the surrounding area in the over 20 years she’s been a part of the squad. Get your calculator and do the math--they’re on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That’s well in excess of 175,000 volunteer hours for the squad during the time she’s been part of the SVAS team!

But who’s counting? Certainly, not Jacquie. “My family moved to Salisbury when I was six. My three siblings and I watched our parents volunteer and grew up with a model of giving back to a community that gives to you.” Her father John was an agricultural banker and made loans to tri-state farmers. “He was also a very active member of the high school’s Future Farmers of America program. When he passed away, my family established the FFA Alumni Scholarship for a student pursuing agriculture studies.”

Every year the Rice siblings participate with other hardy souls in the Spring Splash, a nippy dip into Lake Wononscopomuc at the Town Grove to raise money for the scholarship fund, as well as the Jane Lloyd Fund, a cancer victim relief fund in honor of a family friend who passed away from the disease around the same time.

At 18, while a student at Southern Connecticut State University, Jacquie qualified as an EMT. “I thought I wanted to go to medical school so this was an interest of mine. I believe in giving back to the community in a way that is right for you.”

For Jacquie, her giving is receiving. “I get to go to people’s houses--people I know--when they’re sick or hurt. When they see me, or any of the 40-member squad, they’re seeing a neighbor, someone they know. It’s hugely comforting for them to see a familiar face and I feel good about that.”

When asked about what it’s like to be the chief of SVAS, Jacquie quickly turns the conversation to her squad. “The key is to make sure all the positions are well-staffed. They’re all volunteers with jobs and families. Whatever they can give is O.K. We are a family that supports each other.” She also cites the “huge wealth of knowledge of the squad--and not just about medicine. We have doctors, lawyers, teachers, electricians, plumbers, and landscapers, just to name a few. They bring eclectic expertise that’s useful in the situations we find ourselves.” Those situations include call-outs to the town’s multiple lakes and rivers, as well as the Appalachian Trail.

Jacquie is grateful for the support that the SVAS receives from the local community. That support is a great source of validation for the work of the squad. “The people of Salisbury have been incredibly generous to the squad and because of that, we have the best equipment. We’re 100 percent funded by donations but the town selectmen do whatever they can to make sure we have what we need.” For example, during these pandemic times the squad has been overwhelmed by the masks, gloves, face shields, and gowns they’ve received. “While we’re a safety net for others in times of need, the squad feels like it has one in this local community.”

Jacquie and the squad work closely with Noble Horizons to educate them on safe practices, particularly at this time. There is a strong partnership and they maintain regular contact to keep lines of communication open. Her mother also spent time at Noble recuperating from cancer treatment and then a hip replacement. “The nurses are very special to my family. My mom is back home and independent because of them.”

When Jacquie isn’t teaching math or on duty at SVAS she’s coaching the girls and boys swim teams at the high school and in the summer she’s one of the lifeguard instructors at the Town Grove. She enjoys sharing her knowledge with the trainees and is confident they are well-prepared to safeguard the lake and equipped to handle emergencies.

Jacquie is overwhelmed by the wealth of volunteerism in the northwest corner and believes she’s in good company. Because of this, her extraordinary contributions to this area through the many roles she plays are something she humbly shrugs off. She is part of something larger than herself, which suits her just fine.

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