July Jefferson Award: Dave Diestler - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

July Jefferson Award: Dave Diestler

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JEFFERSON (WKOW) -- Budget cuts have forced a lot of tough choices for government and private groups across the country.

This month's Jefferson Award winner was able to fill some of the gaps left behind by cuts to emergency response services in our area.

"I guess I've always liked helping people, always wanted to help people," remembers Dave Diestler.

For several years, Dave volunteered with the Rock County Red Cross disaster assistance team. But a few years ago, cutbacks created a sudden need for on-scene recovery service for firefighters and first responders. So, Dave decided to form SWEPT, Southern Wisconsin Emergency Preparedness Team.

"Too many firemen were dying on scene because they were having heart attacks or exhaustion, things like that.  So, they come to our unit and they'll get nourishment, food, water, get blood pressure taken. They get analyzed to see if they're okay to go back to the scene," he explained.

Along with assistant director Kate Hoesly, Dave coordinates 30 trained volunteers who take turns serving on the renovated tool truck provided by the Town of Beloit.

"You cannot realize what they go through until your at the scene. There are amazing, amazing, amazing emergency responders out there. And they need help too," said Hoesly.

And in less than two years of existence, SWEPT has expanded its services to include traffic control for parades and other events when the local police and sheriffs don't have the staff.

"They may not have the money in the budget to pay overtime for an extra police officer when we could be blocking the road for a parade, or whatever," noted Hoesly.

And the volunteers have SWEPT those local departments off their feet. The group is on pace to quadruple the number of its calls this year.

"It's a really different feeling when you can help the fire and policemen and they're so thankful; that's the neat thing about it, they're so thankful; it makes you feel warm inside that you can help somebody like that," said Diestler.

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