The town's Volunteer Emergency Medical Services corps answers about 2,500 calls for assistance each year, rushing certified technicians to provide often life-saving treatment to victims of illness and injury.

Now, VEMS has placed its own call for help.

The corps recently mailed appeals for donations to about 10,000 Westport households as part of its annual fundraising drive. The nonprofit group receives no tax dollars and the drive each year provides the lion's share of its operating budget.

All of VEMS materials and equipment are funded by private donations from residents, businesses and civic organizations, the corps said.

The drive last year raised about $125,000, or more than 70 percent of the VEMS operating budget, according to Martin Iselin, president. Facing increasing costs, this year's goal is $130,000, a 4 percent increase.

"We depend on tax-deductible donations to fund everything from bandages to ambulances, from life-support equipment to advanced life-support training," Iselin said.

The private funding keeps "Westport at the leading edge of emergency service," Iselin said. "So please give generously."

The all-volunteer corps this year has a $175,000 operating budget, Iselin said. It maintains three ambulances and three sport-utility vehicles used as so-called "fly cars," which carry medical personnel and equipment where they are needed, but don't transport patients.

The group also provides training for its 125 volunteers, in addition to offering classes in CPR and other techniques to the public.

First Selectman Jim Marpe urged residents to contribute.

"Westport is extremely fortunate to have a largely volunteer emergency medical service that is made up of well-trained and highly dedicated men and women of all ages, who have saved countless lives and who offer critical emergency medical care every hour of every day," Marpe said.

"I urge all Westporters to join me in making a personal contribution to the continuing quality and success of one of the town's `crown jewels' of public service," he said.