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The men and women who save our lives

Film

There are many things homeowners in the area need to learn, from where to buy groceries to how to register their children for school.

The need for those is, for the most part, obvious. The need for firefighters and ambulance crews is less obvious — until it’s an emergency. Then area residents learn very quickly that when they call 911, their calls for aid are answered by well-trained volunteers who live in their own and in nearby towns. 

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Anne Makepeace lives in Lakeville, Conn., and over the years has become  increasingly aware of the importance of these EMS volunteers — and the struggles they face to raise funds to pay for training and equipment and the equally great struggle to recruit new members. 

Makepeace made “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” to help the fire and ambulance volunteers to raise funds and entice new volunteers — especially younger ones.

“These volunteer departments are aging out,” she said. “The average age, for example, of the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Squad is around 50.

“We’re not going to have volunteer ambulance or hose companies if young people don’t join.”

The cost to hire professional fire and ambulance companies for the area towns would be staggering.

Over the course of a year-and-a half of shooting, Makepeace and her crew (which includes Salisbury native Ben Willis) shadowed first responders from several Northwest Corner towns.

“I learned about the selfless generosity of the first responders,” Makepeace said. “I learned that  the members of these fire companies and ambulance squads are often like family to each other. I learned about the culture within these volunteer departments.

“And it humbled me.”

“Neighbors Helping Neighbors” will be shown at 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 12, at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Conn.

Viewers will watch from their cars with sound on FM radio. Registration is required; for your free vehicle ticket, go to the Sharon Playhouse, www.sharonplayhouse.org. Gates will open at 8 p.m. Introductory remarks will begin at 8:30 p.m., followed at dark by the 15-minute film and a Q&A with the filmmakers and first responders.  

After July 12, a link to free streaming will be posted at www.makepeaceproductions.com.

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