ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - The Atlantic Highlands First Aid Squad's annual fund drive is underway and the organization is asking residents for help.

Once a year, the AHFAS reaches out to the community for donations to offset the high costs of providing professional, free emergency medical services to Atlantic Highlands on a 24-hour basis.

"We depend on the generosity of our friends and neighbors to help purchase supplies, maintain our ambulance, acquire updated equipment and assure the highest-level training possible," said AHFAS president Lou Marotta. "Without the residents, we simply could not do this well."

The AHFAS is an all-volunteer, independent, EMS organization that operates completely on donations from the community and the Borough of Atlantic Highlands. The squad responded to 443 calls in 2007, covering a variety of medical emergencies from simple cuts to serious motor vehicle accidents.

Dedicated members of the AHFAS must undergo more than 110 hours of training to become EMTS and continue training throughout their careers. They respond to calls 24-hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes at the expense of time with their families. They do so, of course, to help their neighbors.

In addition to answering emergency calls, the AHFAS provides the annual Santa trips through Atlantic Highlands each December and offers first aid and CPR training to the community.

However, under the current economic climate, the cost of providing this free service continues to escalate.

The squad is also looking for additional members, especially those who may be available during daytime hours. Training is provided for free.

"We are an excellent organization filled with members dedicated to providing this service," Marotta said. "It only takes a small donation from each resident to maintain this free service. We need their support."

To learn more about supporting the AHFAS or becoming a member, call the non-emergency number (732) 291-8118 or log ontowww.ahfirstaid.org.

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