Clinton Clock is a strong believer in community service. He taught his family by example. A second-generation native of Paonia, he's been a Scoutmaster, served on Paonia Town Council, was on the board of Paonia State Bank, and was a 28-year member of Paonia Rotary Club. He also serves as an elder of Paonia Friends Church, where he was married and has been a member for 50 years.
Son Kirby also knows the power of community service and helping others. He has served on the North Fork Ambulance for 25 years. His son, Ty Clock, recalls that while growing up, he would often hear his dad's pager go off in the middle of the night.
"He'd try to sneak out," recalls Ty. "I remember seeing the emergency lights on the highway, and I knew it was my dad, and he's helping people."
Now Ty, 20, is taking those late-night calls with NFA, the only ambulance service available to the North Fork area and its outer reaches. Sometimes father and son answer the same call. That's been a powerful experience, says Ty. He watches his dad closely. They sometimes seem to know what one another is thinking, he said. Kirby might ask for a particular piece of equipment as Ty reaches for it.
"That's been a really fun experience," says Ty. "I've learned a lot."
He's well-suited for the task, said Kirby. "As a dad, it makes you proud." It's also re-energized him in his commitment to providing emergency medical care. For the last four years he's combined his business knowledge with his EMS experience as manager of the Delta County Ambulance District.
While studying business in college, Kirby learned about emergency care through his roommates who were studying to be doctors. After college he returned to Paonia and joined the Paonia Volunteer Fire Department. About a year after joining, his wife, Lynette, asked him to join her in taking an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class. She backed out, but Kirby took the class anyway. (Lynette, a preschool teacher, did earn her EMT and went out on calls with NFA for several years until she and Kirby had triplets Ty and sisters Tia and Tiffany.)
Ty, a 2015 Hotchkiss High School graduate and Daniels Scholarship finalist, was a member of National Honor Society, a three-sport athlete, and was very active in 4-H, serving as club reporter, treasurer, vice president and president. He got his start in emergency medical services, or EMS, as a cadet with the Paonia Fire Department. It was a good way to earn service hours, he said, which look good on scholarship and college applications.
His junior year he planned to apply as a driver with PVFD. Because NFA would pay 100 percent of the cost, he enrolled in its EMT class, knowing that if being an emergency services provider wasn't a good fit, he wasn't out a lot of money. Because the class is time-consuming and can take up to eight months to complete, he resigned from the PVFD.
It's worked out very well. Ty is now an EMT and on a career path in EMS, and is currently attending the University of New Mexico Albuquerque, where he plans to become a paramedic and eventually earn an EMS degree. He's applying to the university's EMS Academy and in January he passed the National Registry EMT test, which covers everything from anatomy and physiology to traumatic injuries and ambulance operations.
His goal is to work in a fire department in a major city, and he has his eye on Anchorage. "I enjoy helping people," said Ty. "That's really my passion."
During winter break, rather than kick back and relax, Ty came home and signed up for ambulance shifts. They went out on some pretty serious calls together, said Kirby. "He's doing very well ... It's good to see him doing what he needs to do and remaining calm."
It's also a little scary, said Kirby. While he trusts Ty's ability, in his 25 years with the ambulance he's witnessed some things he'd rather his kids not ever see. And in the rural North Fork Valley, where everyone knows everyone else, it's not uncommon to answer an emergency call involving a friend or family member. While he would like to shield his son from those memories, "It's also a part of what you do."
"I'm really proud of Ty," said Clinton Clock.
Clinton retired after 40 years with the phone company, and remains active in the community. He is currently president of the NFA board of directors, and will retire this month when the nonprofit holds its annual meeting and board elections. Clinton's involvement in NFA is with the board, interviewing new volunteers, manning the non-profit's booth at public events, and helping with daily operations and training.
"It's rewarding to be involved in anything," said Clinton. "If you are wanting to be of service or help your fellow man, serve others."
He has also been a member of NFA since it began in 1969. He credits Richard Kinser, an EMT who served more than 40 years with PVFD and NFA. Kinser was once named volunteer of the year by the Colorado governor.
The ambulance service wouldn't exist without him, said Clinton.
About 15 years ago he watched Kinser save a man's life after an accident at the Plateau gas station (now Stop 'n' Save) on Highway 133. "It takes a special person to do that," said Clock.
NFA services a roughly 1,500 square mile area in Delta, Gunnison and Montrose counties and has stations in Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss. It currently averages about 730 calls a year. The organization is largely funded by annual memberships, donations and grants, and relies heavily on volunteers. Executive director Kathy Steckel said there are currently more than 50 ambulance volunteers, and for every one there is a support volunteer. They can always use more volunteers.
In January the NFA was named Nonprofit of the Year by the Paonia Chamber of Commerce.
In recent years the organization has faced some big challenges, including volunteer shortages and is facing a nearly $200,000 deficit in 2015. Steckel turned the organization around and cut that deficit in half, said Clinton, and the deficit is expected to be further reduced this year.
The Clocks aren't the only multi-generational family serving with NFA. According to Steckel, there have also been two sets of fathers and sons, two mothers and sons, two married couples and a sister in law, a mother-in-law and son-in-law, and one uncle/niece duo. Over the years there have been many husband-and-wife volunteers.
For students interested in getting involved in EMS but who just aren't sure if it's for them, Ty recommends either starting out as a driver, or shadowing the pros. The Explorer Post, a program overseen by the Boy Scouts of America, lets youth between the ages of 18 and 24 experience what EMS is all about.
With NFA it's also possible to become a driver with just a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification, which is unusual, said Kirby. Most crews today require at least an EMT certification for their drivers. NFA also offers monthly CPR training and provides information on basic EMS.
"It's a great way to get involved and see if it's something you want to do without having to invest in the six to eight months it takes to become an EMT," said Kirby. "A lot of EMTs start as drivers," then realize they want to do more.
Some people become ambulance volunteers and EMTs because of a life experience. Clinton said that many who take an EMT class are parents who "experienced a serious incident that taught them they need to be better able to respond."
Kirby says that being on the ambulance crew can be challenging, and when one is on call, "You can't go anywhere." In the North Fork area, "It's also very likely you'll get a call."
Ty said his favorite part of being involved in EMS is the people and the many new connections he's made during his brief time in the industry. "It comes down to neighbors helping neighbors," he said. "They are your neighbors. You see them at Don's Market or the post office."
For him, that makes all the training and late-night runs worth the effort. Said Ty, "There's something special about getting up at midnight to go help someone."