CUBA CITY—Volunteering has been a long-time commitment, a choice that Dorothy Gray doesn’t take lightly.
She and her late husband, Bob Vaske, left their hometown of Holy Cross, Iowa, to purchase a farm in the Cuba City community in 1976. In 1981 she was approached about joining the rescue squad because they were short on people to cover the day shifts.
“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, but the opportunity never came,” Gray said. “Love and marriage came first. When I got married it just wasn’t going to happen because it was a full-time job being a farmer. So, this was an opportunity for me to help people.”
Gray said taking on the healthcare field as a volunteer for the rescue squad, she knew it was a vocation, not an occupation.
“I knew I could walk away if I felt like I couldn’t do it,” Gray said. “I didn’t do it for the glory or the money. It was just a passion that I had.”
Gray said the rescue squad has transitioned over the years to better meet the needs of the community based on new techniques and technology.
“It is a lot more challenging now,” Gray said. “When I started, we had three pagers for day and three for night. You were on for a week at a time for 12 hours. When your shift ended either on Sunday night or Monday morning, you had to run your pager to the next person on duty. That was a challenge sometimes.”
She said the rescue squad started out with nothing. It operated on donations from people they helped. The rescue squad held fundraisers and did what it could with the money it had. Eventually they had enough to get a pager for every volunteer.
In the early 1980s, the rescue squad did a membership push and got more volunteers to help cover the shifts. Gray said people’s schedules started changing where they were working more during the day. This required a change in scheduling.
“We have had many different schedules over the years,” Gray said. “We do whatever works at the time. Everything changes.”
The rescue squad transitioned from simple calls where they would transport patients to the hospital. Now the rescue squad has evolved to provide more medical care during transport.
“Every time it was a challenge and I would ask the Lord if I could handle this,” Gray said. “And He always answered.”
She said when she feels overwhelmed, she asks the Lord if it is time to quit. She said within a couple of days she gets an answer, with a call she feels she can handle.
“When I get overwhelmed, I step back,” Gray said. “Now we have stress debriefing and it has helped a lot.”
When she started with the rescue squad, she was new to Cuba City and didn’t know many people.
“At first, I was new to Cuba City,” Gray said. “The calls would bother me some, but it didn’t affect me because I didn’t know the people. Now it is a whole different story. Now I feel. I cry with them. I laugh with them. Now it is personal.”
Gray said there is a ride-along program to show potential volunteers what they can expect during a shift.
“Being a first responder is a good place to start,” Gray said. “It can be a good introduction to how we do things.”
She said an EMT class is starting in January in Platteville. Applications can be picked up at City Hall.
“I hope I can keep going for a few more years,” Gray said. “Hopefully we can keep the squad going for a few more years, too. But that is all changing because everybody is so busy. We have so many opportunities in today’s world. It is hard to volunteer your time and make the commitment. It is a big commitment. Volunteerism isn’t what it used to be.”
Gray said being on call doesn’t mean you are grounded. Only occasionally your plans get interrupted.
“You make it work if you make a commitment,” Gray said. “I don’t take it lightly. People need fire and rescue and they depend on us.”
Gray’s main act of volunteering is through the rescue squad, although she gives back to the community in many other ways. She volunteers for the Cuba City Fire Department and St. Rose Turkey Supper. She helps out in a variety of ways with the Catholic Daughters. She also spent many years making blankets for the Cuba City Lioness Club. In her spare time she likes to crochet and quilt and gives away many of the items she makes.
“I have known Dorothy for a long time as we served on the Rescue Squad years ago together,” Cuba City Mayor Tom Gile said. “She has continued to offer her time and talents to the squad for over 36 years. She needs to be commended for her years of dedication and service to the CCARS. Please thank Dorothy when you see her for all she has given to Cuba City.”
Gray said Cuba City has a lot of growth potential.
“I never thought I’d see the day when the industrial park was full and we were short on housing,” Gray said. “With the proximity to Dubuque and Madison, there is a growth potential.”
Her husband, Bob, died in 1990. She married her second husband, George Gray, in 2001. He joined the rescue squad as a driver for 10 years. George has five children.
“I have been very blessed,” Gray said. “I ask the Lord not to give me anything I can’t handle.”
She said she is grateful for having a strong faith to get her through life.
“Being a part of the Cuba City Area Rescue Squad is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” Gray said.
Editor's Note: This column will be a special addition to the Tri-County Press on a monthly basis. Look for each installment near the end of the month. All volunteers are recomended for the article by Mayor Tom Gile. If you have ideas for future volunteers in the community to be recognized, contact Gile at 608-744-3203.