Rehab 23, Wilson County’s first-responder rehabilitation unit, started its sixth year of service with an unfortunate theft of vital equipment, but its focused to continue its work and dedication to Wilson County’s first responders.
Rehab 23 is an all-volunteer organization comprised of 52 members who provide support such as hydration, food and shelter to Wilson County’s first responders. In addition to snacks and beverages, Chick-fil-A in Mt. Juliet donates chicken sandwiches to Rehab 23 for emergency operations that happen during meal times or for extended operations. Chick-fil-A in Lebanon and Uncle Pete’s Truck Stop in Lebanon have also donated food for operations.
Rehab 23 officially started operations in 2013, but it got its ambulance from Rhode Island in 2012, thanks to the Wilson County Professional Firefighters Association No. 4238. The organization also owns a red 1999 Jeep and a 2007 Winnebago that serves as a command vehicle.
Rehab 23 operations officer Bob Pergler and vice president Linn Yeager sit in the back of their converted 1999 Ford Wheeled Coach ambulance at the Mt. Juliet Fire Hall on Belinda Parkway. The ambulance is stocked with water, Gatorade, coffee, hot chocolate and a variety of snacks – everything they need to help keep first responders in the fight.
“In this area, the public is very supportive of first responders, and the first responders just love what we do,” Yeager said.
He said their work is part of a long tradition of community members who supported fire responders in their efforts to protect the community.
“The common thing that goes back, I guess 100 years, is the Fire Buffs. There’s a whole history, particularly in the cities in the Northeast, that people participated in and helped the firefighters,” Yeager said. “The origin of all this was the wives would follow their husbands out to a fire and provide whatever services they could provide.”
In six years of service, Rehab 23 has grown with limited challenges until recently when one of its portable generators was stolen.
On Jan. 11, Rehab 23 responded to a barn fire in Gladeville to assist Wilson Emergency Management Agency firefighters and Wilson County sheriff’s deputies in what seemed to be a routine operation. Rehab 23 volunteers did as they always do. They set up a folding table with hot coffee, bottles of water and Gatorade and put out a selection of snacks. They plugged up their red, Honda EU2000i portable generator, which is used to power coffee machines and other electronics and appliances.
The sun set, and firefighters eventually extinguished the fire, but temperatures dipped into the mid 20s. It was a time when firefighters needed support the most. Crews began to pack up hoses and other equipment while Rehab 23 volunteers broke down their table. But something was wrong – the generator was missing.
“We were in the process of packing up,” Pergler said. “The truck and the site where we had our table and all that stuff were separated, so we brought pieces up a part at a time, and the generator had been used. We brought it up and set it down by the truck to let it cool off a bit before we stored it away. They went to go get some more stuff, and when they got back to the truck, it had been taken.”
Pergler said that both Rehab 23 volunteers and WEMA crews had never seen a theft from an active scene before.
“It’s kind of disheartening,” Pergler said. “You’re out there trying to support your first responders, and somebody comes and takes that. It just kind of takes your breath away.”
Yeager said, “We work hard to generate our money. We live off of donations, a few grants, fundraisers that we do. That, and we’re trying to do things to replace our older Jeep from ’99, and to replace this – we’re doing all we can, and then somebody takes your generator.”
Several people were seen in the area of the barn fire, but no one was identified or arrested. Sheriff’s deputies continue to investigate the theft.
WEMA deputy director and fire Chief Jeremy Hobbs, who was present at the barn fire, said it was an unbelievable disappointment that someone would steal from those who assist firefighters on a scene.
“It’s sad. It’s embarrassing. You’d think we’d have better people living in the county who wouldn’t do that. Those guys all work from charities and nonprofits, and they don’t just help out in Wilson County EMA. They help out multiple agencies all across the Mid State. It’s a good group of older people who are mostly retired, and they’re doing it for nonprofit, so it’s sad that somebody would do that,” Hobbs said. “Those guys, you can’t beat them. They’re with us no matter what time of day or night. They come out; they work just like we do. They take care of our first responders – from Mt. Juliet City fire, Lebanon city, Wilson County, Watertown, I mean, wherever they’re asked to go, they go – no questions asked. If it wasn’t for them, we’d be in rough shape.”
While the theft was a disappointment to both Rehab 23 and the first responder community, it didn’t stop volunteers from doing their job, a job that has forged a bond and a respect between the crews of Rehab 23 and first responders.
“Rehab has one mission, and that is to support the 600-plus first responders in Wilson County,” Yeager said.
Pergler said, “We get a ‘thank you’ from everybody on the scene every time. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Rehab 23 is in need of funds to continue its services, and volunteers continue work to replace their 1999 Jeep. They plan to eventually replace their main ambulance vehicle but continue to raise much-needed funds keep up with growing maintenance costs.
“It’s vital that we have good, operating equipment to be able to respond in a timely manner, so we’ve kicked off a capital campaign to achieve that,” Yeager said. “We really need support to build up our capital campaign funding, so that we can replace this unit, and it should last us well into the future when we can do that.”
Rehab 23 always seeks volunteers and can be contacted at rehab23.org or by mail at P.O. Box 23 Gladeville, TN 37071 with inquiries or donations. Rehab 23 is also active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
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Rehab 23, Wilson County’s first-responder rehabilitation unit, started its sixth year of service with an unfortunate theft of vital equipment, but its focused to continue its work and dedication to Wilson County’s first responders. Rehab 23 is an all-volunteer organization comprised of 52 members who provide support such as hydration, food and shelter to Wilson County’s first responders. In addition to snacks and beverages, Chick-fil-A in Mt. Juliet donates chicke...
1 entry in the News
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