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Park dedication in Johnsburg to honor state's first chartered rescue squad

Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 3:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:16 a.m. CDT

JOHNSBURG – The members of the Johnsburg Rescue Squad Retired didn't want the name of their organization to disappear.

They've donated $150,000 to develop the park adjacent to the Johnsburg Community Club, which will be dedicated the Rescue Squad Memorial Park this Sunday.

A monument in the park lists all 98 members that have served on the Johnsburg Rescue Squad since it was formed in 1952. That date makes it the first rescue squad in McHenry County and the first charted one in the state, said Bill Swartzloff, who joined the squad in 1969, served as its chief for eight years and currently is a trustee.

The squad was made up of all volunteers, and the financial support came from donations from the residents of Johnsburg, Sunnyside, Pistakee Highlands and Bay areas. It held an annual dance each year in August to raise money.

"You went out for accidents and medical emergencies," he said. "Some, you felt good when you helped and walked away. Others, you didn't."

While Swartzloff's work as a self-employed general contractor made it easier for him to respond to calls when he was working locally, it became harder for other professions, including the three or four school teachers who were on the squad, he said.

Between those constraints and the ones from increasing training requirements, the squad dissolved as an emergency response entity in 1989, turning over those responsibilities to the McHenry Township Fire Protection District.

But its members decided to keep their philanthropic work going.

Using money from the sale of their equipment and the small amounts earned from the lease and eventually sale of its station, now the Johnsburg Police Department, the group has provided $72,000 worth of scholarships to area students pursuing a career in the medical field, distributed Christmas food baskets to those in need, and donated the Johnsburg community sign at the Johnsburg Public Library.

With its membership growing older and declining, the group decided to put together a final big project to use the funds still in the bank and preserve the name of the squad, Swartloff said. They agreed on developing a park to be named after the group.

The dedication will take place at the park at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Parking will be available at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and School parking lots, and a shuttle will provide transportation to the dedication area.

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