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Rescue squad to hold open house, dedication

The Chilton County Rescue Squad will hold an open house and dedication of its building at the Chilton County fairgrounds on Airport Road in Clanton Sunday starting at 2 p.m.

The dedication is to Alvin Ellison, founding member of the squad, and T.J Cox, longtime president who spearheaded the construction of the squad’s building. Hotdogs and other refreshments will be served.

Rescue Squad president Chris Johnson, currently serving his fourth consecutive term, said the dedication will take place at approximately 3 p.m. Family members of Ellison and Cox will attend the event. An engraved marble marker will be unveiled to commemorate the anniversary.

The rescue squad was first organized in 1955, primarily as a search and recovery squad for drowning victims in nearby rivers and lakes. The first mission was carried out on July 4 that year for a drowning victim in Lake Mitchell.

The squad now assists other agencies on a variety of missions including land searches, security of accident sites, assistance during power outages with generators, tree removal following wind storms, assistance with lighting various events with portable light plants and several other services.

Johnson said the rescue squad existed well before any rural fire or other rescue units did in the area. He said because the county sheriff did not have of deputies and the Coosa River was active with fishing, the squad was formed. In those days, accidents were more prevalent, Johnson said.

“In the ’50s and ’60s, it wasn’t uncommon for us to have a drowning once every couple of months,” he said. “The sheriff’s department didn’t have any way to search for victims. So we formed the rescue squad to assist them.”

The squad currently has 40 members, which is lower compared to previous years. They have had as many as 130 members. Each member is a volunteer, and the squad does not receive any regular tax funding. You must be 16-years-old to join.

Johnson officially joined at 16-years-old in the early 1970s. His father was a member in the 1950s, when he would even help as a child.

He’s proud to continue and does not foresee taking a break from it or stopping in the near future.

“I’ll be a part of it until I die,” Johnson said. “I’ve been a part of it all my life. I don’t see getting out of it so long as I can be of some service.”

He said people in their 80s even volunteer in some capacity, which could involve operating radio communication or cooking meals.

“The rescue squad has meant a lot to the community, especially those people who have had a loved one that has been in a drowning accident,” Johnson said. “You have no closure until the body is recovered. We’ve been there for the public for that.

“We’ve been there to serve our fellow man, which has been our goal for 55 years. We’re here for those in need.”

The open house and dedication will take place between 2-4 p.m.