Weekend Roundup: Rural fire departments struggle to find volunteers

Mortgage assistance, Concerts on the Square, Bronze Fonz and more

Marengo is one of several rural Wisconsin communities that’s currently without regular ambulance service after its former EMS service provider decided not to renew a contract with six towns last year. Danielle Kaeding/WPR

For Edgar Fire Chief David Wagener, emergency staffing is unpredictable.

He told WSAW-TV in Wausau that relying on volunteers to staff fire stations can lead to not knowing who is available to help on any given day.

“You really never know when that pager goes off how many people are going to show up,” Wagener said. “People leave town to go to work and so they’re not around. During the day there’s not very many people around that could respond to an EMS or fire call.”

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According to Wagener, the average age of volunteer firefighters in the village west of Wausau is 53. And finding younger volunteers is getting increasingly difficult.

A new plan by Gov. Tony Evers looks to help rural departments like Edgar, making attracting volunteers easier with better pay. That just might help Wagener who said he could use about 10 more volunteers for both fire and EMS.

“If we could get some staffing and pay for some staffing during the day that would help tremendously,” Wagener said.

Wisconsin DHS: COVID-19 Weekly Recap

The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin is 338 as of Friday. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has confirmed 12,503 total deaths from the disease.

More than 60 percent of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated — 82.4 percent of people age 65 and older, 57.4 percent of children age 12 to 17 and 23.8 percent of children 5 to 11 years old. As of Friday, 33.2 percent have received a booster shot.

US Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s bill would provide support for moms experiencing mental health issues

A new bipartisan bill looks to expand a grant program to screen and treat maternal mental health and substance use disorders among mothers.

U.S. Sen.Tammy Baldwin, who authored the bill, said it was time to invest in young mothers.

“Sadly, we are leaving too many moms behind, often women of color,” she said. “This bicameral, bipartisan legislation will help ensure that regardless of where a new mother lives in Wisconsin or America, they have the resources they need to address their mental health and substance use disorder challenges, and can go on to lead healthy lives.”

The bill, titled the Into the Light Act for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Act, will do the following:

  • Take steps to scale up existing screening and treatment programs based on feedback from states.
  • Broaden the Health Resources and Services Administration’s support from seven to 30 state programs.
  • Add trainings on trauma-informed care, biases and culturally and linguistically appropriate services to bridge gaps for health equity.
  • Codify the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a national 24/7 voice and text program to helping pregnant or postpartum women and family members affected by maternal mental health and substance use disorders.

According to press release announcing the bill, the most common complication of pregnancy is a mental health condition — and suicide and overdose are leading causes of death for women after having a child.

Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance Executive Director Adrienne Griffen applauded the bill, pointing specifically to the hotline.

“The hotline will ensure that support and information is available anytime day or night, and the additional funding for grants will increase four-fold the number of states able to implement proven programs to treat maternal mental health conditions,” Griffen said. “We must do all we can to address these illnesses so that new parents and their infants get off to the best start possible.”

Evers changes course on assistance program after complaint

Gov. Tony Evers has reversed a decision to direct federal funds toward people of color as part of a nearly $93 million mortgage-assistance program after a conservative law firm argued the move would be unconstitutional.

The Wisconsin Help for Homeowners program Evers announced in August was to provide grants to eligible homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages and meeting other bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Tuesday that when Evers launched the program last week, it only applied to those with an income equal to or less than 100 percent of the area median income for their household size, with no expanded access for minority groups.

Why cello there! Concerts on the Square returning to Capitol Square

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s quintessential summer activity of Concerts on the Square is back on.

For the first time since 2019, the orchestra will perform with the picturesque background of the state Capitol in Madison. The six-concert series will have no restrictions after being on a two-year hiatus because of COVID-19.

“We needed to get back to the square. That’s home. But it’s about so much more than the music. It’s about bringing our community together for a free event they can count on throughout the summer,” Joe Loehnis, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s CEO, said in a release announcing the return. “Our musicians can’t wait to play again for the tens of thousands of people who come out each week, and we promise to deliver performances no one will forget.”

The concerts begin at 7 p.m. People can begin placing blankets to reserve spots around the Capitol at 3 p.m.

  • Wednesday, June 29 — Motown with Spectrum
  • Wednesday, July 6 — Summer Celebration
  • Wednesday, July 13 — Reflections on Liberty
  • Wednesday, July 20 — The Planets & Ho-Chunk
  • Wednesday, July 27 — Rachmaninov’s Third
  • Wednesday, Aug. 3 — Finale with Foley

The Bronze Fonz returns to Milwaukee’s Riverwalk

The Bronze Fonz is back on Milwaukee’s Riverwalk — with a new look.

Created by artist Gerald P. Sawyer, the iconic statue was gone for about 40 days for routine maintenance, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The statue honors Arthur Fonzarelli, also known as “Fonzie,” who was played by Henry Winkler, in the hit sitcom “Happy Days.” The show was set in 1950s and ’60s Milwaukee and aired for 10 years from 1974-1984, according to the Journal Sentinel.

“When we removed The Bronze Fonz for routine maintenance, on a Tuesday afternoon in February, we had no idea the stir it would cause throughout the city,” Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of Visit Milwaukee, said at an unveiling last week.

As the Journal Sentinel reports:

The statue has a certain glow to it now, it is truly bronze throughout with varying shades of bronze. His T-shirt is bronze but lighter than his leather jacket and his jeans are almost a golden bronze. The bright blue jeans are gone.

Boston doctors hopeful their videos help Ukrainians save lives

Doctors from Boston are creating videos to show how to treat bleeding wounds in hopes that the information could help save lives in Ukraine as Russia continues its assault, the doctors who created those videos told “The Washington Post.”

“The data we know from the battlefield is that a significant amount of deaths are preventable with taking these steps,” emergency medicine physician Eric Goralnick said in the article. Instructions detailing the steps are typed in Ukrainian.

In a separate and longer, more detailed video, Ukrainian-born Nelya Melnitchouk narrates the instructions. Melnitchouk is an oncology surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Melnitchouk told the Post that after Russian forces began their assault on Ukraine on Feb. 24, Ukrainian doctors were reaching out to her to ask about trauma care. She then connected with Goralnick to create videos for Ukrainian speakers. Goralnick has done similar work for the campaign Stop the Bleed.

Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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