Glenville

Glenville Town Board member is also a longtime first responder

Wierzbowski currently serves as community outreach coordinator and a paramedic with Clifton Park-Halfmoon EMS
Gina Wierzbowski gives a CPR lesson to Sky Medici of Latham, during First Responders Day at Saratoga Race Course last August. 
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Gina Wierzbowski gives a CPR lesson to Sky Medici of Latham, during First Responders Day at Saratoga Race Course last August. 

Categories: Schenectady County

GLENVILLE — Town Councilwoman Gina Wierzbowski has been working for 23 years to keep Capital Region communities safe. 

In addition to her work as a Town Board member since January 2010, Wierzbowski has had a long career in emergency services that began when she joined the Glenville Hill Fire Department as a first-response medical provider. 

“In 1996 when I joined the Fire Department, I really just wanted to do something to help the community,” Wierzbowski said. “I was recently out of college and my dad was in the department. He really enjoyed it a lot, and it was something that he and I did together, and from minute one it very rewarding.”

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Her career progressed from working with the Fire Department to being an EMT for six years, then a paramedic for seven years with the Clifton Park-Halfmoon EMS, where she now serves as a community outreach coordinator as well as a paramedic. 

“Right now I work on our outreach program and our safety programs, but since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve been filling in on the ambulance as needed,” Wierzbowski said. “I fill in when we’re short-staffed, so about once a week I’m jumping on.”

Whether through town government or as a first responder, Wierzbowski is dedicated to serving the communities in which she lives and works. 

The Gazette chatted with her about her work, both as a Town Board member and Clifton Park-Halfmoon EMS employee, and how those roles have changed during the COVID-19 crisis.

We also learned what the town of Glenville is doing to help residents and local businesses during the state of emergency.

Q: What has the town of Glenville been doing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

A: We have done a number of things. We established a senior assistance program where we have over 50 volunteers who shop for seniors, and then we’ve been utilizing our Senior Center drivers — and I’ve actually jumped in to help, too — to do deliveries. We’re trying to minimize contact so there’s not 50 people who come in contact with our seniors. 

We also took our LDC (Local Development Corporation) funds and are making our loans available to small businesses within the town and the village of Scotia so that they can apply for assistance. We’ve awarded four small businesses emergency loans through the LDC so far. We have more applications pending. 

We’re obviously operating under the state of emergency, so we’ve had to reduce some town staffing. We’re at 50 percent staffing.

We’re still trying to provide services, but Town Hall is actually closed to the public right now just out of necessity.

We’re doing a Passport to Glenville. Residents can get what looks like a little passport card, and when they order food from a local restaurant — they order takeout — they get a stamp. They get a prize once they fill up their passport cards.

Rising to the Challenge: Faces of the COVID-19 crisis in the Capital Region

Q: What do you do in your job as community outreach coordinator for the Clifton Park-Halfmoon EMS?

A: I am our American Heart Association training center coordinator, so I coordinate all of our CPR and other training courses that are offered through the American Heart Association.

I also am responsible for coordinating our other safety programs. We have a safe sitter program, we have a car seat technician installation program where we offer car seat checks to the public free of charge. We also do Stop the Bleed training. That’s a relatively new thing for us. 

I also am responsible for coordinating the events that we go to in the community. We serve the towns of Clifton Park, Halfmoon and the city of Mechanicville. When they have public events, we go to those and we staff them, and basically try to bring our programs to the public and educate them about how to stay safe at home, and meet them in a way that isn’t as upsetting as when they need us — to try to get them to know us before they need us.

 

Q: What is the best part about your job?

A: The best part is educating people about us and who we are. One of my favorite things to do is to visit the summer camps and teach kids all about us and what we do, and kind of demystifying what happens when they need us, and helping them learn about their bodies and how to keep them safe and healthy. I think that’s one of the best parts — interacting with the public and educating them about us, and helping them to stay safe.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

A: I think sometimes it’s hard to find different ways to present the same information so that it stays relevant and pertinent. We have a pretty strong social media presence, but it takes a lot of work to make the content interesting and not just have the same old things keep popping up. It’s the same message, but you don’t want to keep presenting it in the same way, so sometimes trying to be a little innovative in the way we present things is sometimes a little bit of a challenge.

Q: How has your job changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?

A: I’m working from home. We have been trying to minimize contact between staff members for obvious reasons. Since I am mostly in an administrative role, I have been working from home. That’s been the biggest change, and not being able to hold our regular CPR classes and hold our regular car seat check events, things like that. The schedule has been greatly reduced.

Q: What good things have you seen happening during this pandemic?

A: I see a lot of people reaching out and helping other people. There are so many community programs that have come out of this that are helping at-risk groups, like the elderly and people who really should not be leaving their homes. The outpouring of support for things like food pantries and assisting those in need, it has just been really great.

I think that as a general thing, most communities are trying to support their businesses so that they don’t have to close, and I think that’s fantastic.

Rising to the Challenge: Faces of the COVID-19 crisis in the Capital Region

Q: Do you have a standout moment in your career in emergency services?

A: It has been a long career so it’s hard to say if there’s one particular moment, but one thing that gives me a very deep sense of satisfaction and that reaffirms my passion for this profession is when someone says, “Thank you for taking care of me and making me feel better.” That’s the culmination of everything that I do when I’m taking care of a patient, and when someone says, “Thank you for making me feel better” it’s a pretty good feeling. It’s worth the long hours.

It’s worth the time away from family to know that you definitely helped somebody and that your actions improved their life. It’s amazing actually. It’s an honor.

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