Serve in two different ways | News, Sports, Jobs



Photo by Sam Thiel First Baptist Church pastor Rich Riley is also a first responder in Lake Benton.

LAKE BENTON — As pastor of First Baptist Church of Lake Benton for eight and a half years, Rich Riley has a long history of serving others. But it wasn’t until months after taking office that he found another opportunity to help members of his community.

Riley, 46, noticed an ad in the newspaper looking for volunteers for Lake Benton first responders and felt the ability to volunteer matched his calling in the church. He hasn’t stopped helping since, spending the last seven and a half years as an emergency medical responder, including the last two years as captain of a six-person, all-volunteer crew.

“I moved to Lake Benton almost nine years ago and saw an ad in the newspaper that advertised Lake Benton first responders and it sort of described what they do,” Riley said. “I am a local pastor here at First Baptist Church and the mission of first responders seemed to go well with what God called me to do as a pastor, to help people and spiritually point people to Jesus Christ as their saviour. Also, Jesus helped many people medically while on Earth, so this is an opportunity to serve people like Jesus did.

After completing his semester-long training at Minnesota West Technical Community College, Riley passed the certification tests to become an Emergency Medical Responder, which is one level below Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). As an emergency medical responder, Riley said their main job was to provide patient care until the ambulance could arrive.

“We are not transporting any patients, we are not administering any medication, but we can perform CPR, we carry defibrillators with us, we carry oxygen and the objective is to start emergency care for patients until when the ambulance arrives, Riley said. “Usually it’s with Tyler ambulance, most of our calls go through them, but sometimes Pipestone ambulance or more rarely Hendricks ambulance. We respond to fire calls to support the fire department in the event of an injury, car accident or any kind of medical emergency. Sometimes law enforcement is involved, sometimes not, a whole range of different calls.

Riley said he has averaged between 90 and 100 calls a year in recent years, with the majority of calls lasting between 30 and 45 minutes. Lake Benton first responders and the fire department each have a platform to use, but generally help each other out on calls. Riley said their coverage area includes parts of Pipestone County in the south, as far southwest as Ward (SD), just before Arco in the north, and halfway to Tyler in the east and up to to the state line west of them.

Riley added that he spends an average of about four to five hours a month volunteering with first responders on calls or at monthly meetings, where they review their calls and undergo in-house training. He also said they must recertify every two years.

“It keeps us busy but at the same time it’s not our full-time job, it’s just a volunteer opportunity,” Riley said. “My schedule is quite flexible, except during church services, so I can’t respond during those, but when I’m studying or doing something else, I can respond in the community. I got to know a lot of people in the community this way and hope I was of great help to them.

Riley said his faith influenced him in many ways, especially when he was in communication, and he thought it was an opportunity to serve people and comfort them.

“I feel God gave me this mission to serve people and there are definitely spiritual needs and beliefs that I would like to share but cannot share on a medical call, but I can pray for. patients even in silence while I’m working on them to heal an injury or comfort them, so I think that has a big impact,” he said.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Riley said the uncertainty was a scary feeling, especially with a small number of crew members, but added that they received a lot of help from the county. with extra gear and haven’t gotten a lot of COVID-related calls the longer the pandemic lasts.

“At the beginning, the unknown was really scary” he said. “We took special precautions. Our medical director is Dr. Dan Florey from Tyler’s Hospital, so he sort of gives us guidance through Tyler’s ambulance on what to use for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE ). We always wore gloves and masks and for a while we wore gowns and face shields. »

“We were already sanitizing after calls but had to do extra cleaning work with the pandemic. The longer things have gone on the more we haven’t had a lot of pandemic related calls in fact some people may have seemed a little scared to call the ambulance but our experience as a small town is probably different than in a big city.”

Other current crew members are Bridget Dinnel, Todd Dykstra, Kim Hansen, Amanda Olsen, and Graham Dinnel. Riley added that while they are always looking for more help, people looking to volunteer need to live in Lake Benton so they can respond quickly enough to be able to help.

Riley added that he was extremely grateful to have the opportunity to serve his community and while there are certainly stressful situations when answering calls, he said it can be reassuring when he is in able to help someone in need.

“I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to serve and sometimes we worry that we don’t have enough help to keep going, but right now we are doing it and we are grateful for it. We love the people in our community and it’s It’s just a chance to be a part of it and for me personally it’s an opportunity for God to use me to hopefully bless others. Riley said.

“It’s nerve-wracking work when you know people’s lives are sometimes on the line and it can be very stressful, but it puts a smile on your face when you know you’ve been able to help.”



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