PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A free ambulance service said it was in its 11th hour, just about to have to shut down for good.
But the Port St. Lucie Volunteer Ambulance service received a donation Monday that will help it stay afloat for at least months to come.
The Port St. Lucie Volunteer Ambulance is a free service that survives on donations. The organization safely takes people to non-emergency medical appointments, to and from rehab centers or nursing homes, or to the hospital for planned surgeries or procedures.
They've been operating in the community for decades.
Chief Tina Vazquez said COVID-19 dried up some of their primary donation sources. Rising gas prices also are not helping.
"Keeping a diesel [ambulance] out running to and from is just too expensive," Vazquez said.
Vazquez said they haven't been able to run appointments since August.
This month would have been their last.
Scott Van Duzer, owner of Big Apple Pizza in Fort Pierce, heard about the struggles facing the ambulance service.
He also knew a Treasure Coast business owner, Tony DiFrancesco, had the means to help and connected the two.
Difrancesco, who owns Tri-County Enterprises, met with Vazquez and her team Monday afternoon.
"What will it take to get you started back?" DiFrancesco asked.
It did not take much convincing for DiFrancesco to write a $5,000 check, with the promise to keep supporting the service each month as needed for their donations to start coming back.
"We're going to see what we can do to get some more donations to them," DiFrancesco said.
He's seen first-hand how important a service like the volunteer ambulance can be for Treasure Coast families.
"I had to transport my mother back from the St. Lucie Medical Center to her house, so that kind of hit home," DiFrancesco said.
With the donation, Vazquez said they will immediately be able to start helping 10 to 15 regular patients.
"Today was absolutely amazing," Vazquez said.