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Bonded by a name, N.Y. servants reach out to help

It was more than a name and a desire to help that prompted NewYork emergency medical technicians to pack their bags on aself-funded trip to Brookhaven. There was also a historicalconnection.

When paramedics in Brookhaven, N.Y., were told by the FederalEmergency Management Agency they were not needed Hurricane Katrinarelief efforts, they didn’t sit back and do nothing.

“We got frustrated because we were watching TV and we could seethe exhaustion of the relief workers. We couldn’t just standthere,” said Gregory Miglino Jr., a district manager for SouthCountry Ambulance Service.

The paramedics decided that if they couldn’t assist through FEMAthey would find another way. They began to look at their fundingand realized they could use funds donated during their annual funddrive.

“We decided to use that money to fund our trip,” Miglino said.”We’ve spent about $3,000 to $5,000 so far.”

Where to go to aid in the relief efforts was a quick decision.Not only do the towns share the same name, but Samuel Jayne, thefounder of Brookhaven, Miss., migrated here in 1818 from his formerhome, named Brookhaven, on Long Island in New York.

The problem, Miglino said, turned out to be narrowing the numberof volunteers that could make the trip.

“We limited it to six because we didn’t want to overwhelm thecommunity,” he said.

The volunteer team left Sept. 7, a week after the storm, in anambulance and a first responder SUV. They drove in shifts to arrive22 hours later, on the afternoon of Sept. 8.

Some members of the volunteer team left to return home Wednesdaynight, and the rest will leave today, Miglino said, adding theywould like to stay longer but have jobs needing theirattention.

South Country Ambulance Service has six paid employees. The 75ambulances serving 500,000 people are primarily operated byvolunteers.

While here though, Miglino said, Kings Daughters AmbulanceService “seamlessly” integrated them into their operationsproviding transports to Jackson medical facilities, answering 911calls and working with the American Red Cross at distributionpoints.

“We’ve been monitoring the lines of people and basically set upa triage center at the sites to help the ill and prevent heatinjuries,” he said.

Area residents have been exceptional through the crisis, Miglinosaid.

“The people of Brookhaven are some of the kindest people I’veever met in my life,” he said. “The hospitality has been off thehook. Even in their time of need, they’ve taken the time to make usfeel welcome and to show us their appreciation.”

In fact, he said, that vast outpouring of appreciation is”embarrassing” and almost made them reconsider staying.

“We had so many people stopping by and saying thank you when wefirst arrived that I wondered if we were too much of a distractionand should just leave,” Miglino said. “That all changed within 15minutes when the calls began to come in. We were thrown right intothe fight.”

As the days passed and the call volume began to decrease,members of the team not on shift began to explore the town.

Paramedic Amy Price was wandering around outside the hospitaland in the ambulance dispatch center taking photographsWednesday.

“It’s beautiful here. I love it,” she said.

Miglino praised the character of the town and said he was proudof the historical connection between the two Brookhavens.

“This is a tough community,” Miglino said. “I will never forgetthis place. Brookhaven’s kindness in the face of tragedy willinspire me for the rest of my life. I haven’t heard much whining,only people saying we got to do what we got to do and this, too,will pass.”