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HARVARD — In a town where the EMTs are strictly volunteers, it could quite easily mean that very few people would want to be a part of the program. But in Harvard there are more than 20 and leading that pack are Charles Perry and Pete Messina.

Leading the pack doesn’t necessarily mean they “run the program” but both men not only dedicate their time to the Ambulance Department by answering calls and running the cadet program, but they were also an intricate part in the planning and designing of the town’s new ambulance.

“Our old ambulance needed to be replaced,” Perry said. “We have different regulations because of our cadet program. But we got an ambulance that’s all set for the future.”

Perry took on the role of presenting the need for a new ambulance to the town’s capital planners and to town meeting voters in 2006.

After two years, with Messina designing the ambulance himself, the new ambulance was delivered in April.

“With our unique (cadet) situation in Harvard we needed an ambulance that fit us,” Messina said. “So, I worked with the manufacturer on designing the rig. We need certain cabinets and compartments to fit our needs.”

The duo not only played an intricate role in getting the ambulance, they are humbled by the recognition they receive in the town.

“I was surprised,” Messina said when he received the letter from Nashoba Publishing stating he and Perry had been nominated by Ambulance Director Thomas Philippou for the “Extraordinary Service Award.”

Perry shared that feeling.

“Pete and I are a lot alike,” Perry said. “We’d just as soon do our jobs and go home.”

Without even thinking about it, Perry was quick to say who he felt deserved the award.

“I would have picked him,” he said, pointing emphatically at Messina. “He’s come up with a lot of innovative ideas for the Ambulance Department. Because of his foresight, we’ve been able to make it through tough fiscal restraints.”

Whether or not they feel they deserve the recognition, both men love what they do and wouldn’t give it up.

“Everybody uses the cliché, ‘We took the job to help people,’ but with us it’s true,” Perry said. “In Harvard, it’s a unique situation. We don’t get paid. We’re volunteers.”

Responding to a call in the wee hours of the morning is almost second nature to these men and not getting paid doesn’t bother them.

“Getting up at 2 a.m. for a stipend isn’t worth it,” Messina said. “But what we do and the fact that we’re the only ones that do it — that’s what makes it worth it.

“A lot of people have a perception that it’s exciting to respond to an automobile accident or something traumatic, but for me it’s when you have the people that are just happy to have someone to talk to.”

Messina added that it actually takes a lot to make a 911 call, for many victims.

“To make that call, to give up your independence,” Messina said. “It’s really a lot of trust for them to let us come in their homes and lift them up and carry them out.

“Then think about the fact that when we’re driving them to the hospital, they’re looking up and can’t see where they’re going. I always remind myself that they’re putting a lot of trust in our hands. That’s what’s exciting.”

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