Hometown Hero revitalized Colrain ambulance service

Gary Ponce recruited 28 volunteers for service benefiting residents of multiple towns

COLRAIN, Mass. (WWLP) – The Western Massachusetts chapter of the American Red Cross has reached out to the Hilltowns of Franklin County to honor a Hometown Hero. Colrain EMT Gary Ponce has made thousands of people feel secure that their emergency ambulance needs will be met.

“Gary always leads from the front. He’s up at three o’clock in the morning,” paramedic Matt Wolkenbreit of the Colrain Volunteer Ambulance Service said. “He is the first one to respond where possible, and everybody has seen his motivation and dedication.”

Wolkenbreit is one of 28 volunteers whom Ponce recruited for the Colrain Volunteer Ambulance Service, when he relocated from California in 2008. Fellow EMT Althea Sacco told 22News that Ponce revitalized the ambulance service, which is why she nominated him as a Hometown Hero.

“Being part of this association has probably meant one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” Sacco said.

Even Ponce himself was somewhat surprised by the success of the ambulance service he rejuvenated, by recruiting a team that could be counted on by the towns of Colrain, Shelburne, Charlemont, and Heath, among others.

“I figured if they made a hundred, that’ll be quite a thing. We managed to do 1,400 and change calls in a row,” Ponce said.

“The amazing thing about being such a close-knit community, and having the relationships that you have known your entire life, it makes them more comfortable in a time of crisis,” Sacco said.

As Ponce looks back on the achievements of his beloved volunteer ambulance team, he credits not himself, but the 28 individual volunteers involved in Colrain’s very busy ambulance service.

“I think the difference was people realizing this was something they had to do. Each individual took equal responsibility for being there,” Ponce said.

“It was extremely satisfying. For whatever reason, it fit my psyche.”

The Western Massachusetts Red Cross will honor Gary Ponce of Colrain at the Hometown Heroes breakfast on the morning of March 17.