8/13/2019 10:39:00 AM Local EMS merging with Effingham-area service
Local children check out the interior of a United Life Care ambulance during National Night Out at Robinson City Park Thursday. A merger between ULC and Lakeside EMS could mean more community involvement by the ambulance service. (Randy Harrison)
Officials of two ambulance companies hope a merger between United Life Care and Lakeside EMS will build upon ULC's tradition of service in Crawford County.
It was announced last week that United was merging with Lakeside, a two-year-old service based in Effingham County. Andrew Hargrave, a co-owner in United since 2015, explained fellow co-owner Earl Deckard is preparing to retire. The merger means Lakeside owners Jarod Estes and Steven Gray will come in to help Hargraves manage the local service.
"It will still be the same great service, if not better," Hargraves said.
"We're really excited. United Life Care has an amazing reputation. We want to keep up on all their traditions," Estes said.
"The current owners have countless years of service and we are going to work together with them as a team to provide the best possible care for our community while giving them a much needed break."
United will keep its name and current employees, Estes explained, adding he hopes to help fine tune and modernize services and provide additional training for employees.
ULC has three ambulances currently in service. A fourth was recently damaged in an accident. All units are staffed with paramedics and are ALS level. The service has two crews working 24/7 with a third on standby during the day.
Lakeside has five additional units and two support vehicles that can be used to lend a hand here in case of an emergency.
One difference the public should see is an increase in community outreach.
"They're really known for that," Hargraves said.
Lakeside originated in Sigel, just north of Effingham. It opened a second location in Centralia in June.
Estes and Gray are both paramedics. They decided to start their own ambulance service after growing tired of "seeing things we wanted to change," Estes said.
"We never went into it to make money," he added, explaining they instead wanted to use revenues to benefit employees and the community. For this reason, Lakeside has sponsored programs on a variety of health issues such as autism awareness. It has also donated to Relay for Life, Special Olympics and more.
Also, United and Lakeside are looking for a site to build a new local headquarters.
ULC has been in the Commercium on South Cross for many years. With the Crawford County Development Association moving, the ambulance service soon will be the building's last tenant (see separate story).
Estes said they are "working hand-in-hand" with local government in the search for a new site. They are also reaching out to local industries such as Marathon and Hershey to get to know them better.