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Donations made in memory of Marlene Tolento have allowed the Guilford Fire Department to purchase CPR training mannequins as well as the outright donation of an automated external defibrillator by Guilford-based Defibtech. (Photo courtesy of Mike Shove )
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Marlene Tolento, who passed away a little over two years ago, continues to inspire community leaders and local businesses to raise awareness and protect against sudden cardiac events.
Tolento, also known as Marlene Rosa, passed away suddenly in October 2017 from a cardiac arrest. Since then, several local businesses, including The Marketplace, Tolento’s longtime place of work, and Defibtech, a Guilford-based company that makes automatic external defibrillator (AED) devices to treat cardiac arrests, have rallied to honor her life.
This past month, the Guilford Fire Department accepted donations amounting to around $800 raised by The Marketplace along with an AED device from Defibtech in honor of Tolento.
Assistant Fire Chief Mike Shove said that the department used the donation money to purchase two CPR mannequins. He said that the outpouring of support in memory of Tolento has continued to help the department in its mission to save lives, specifically from cardiac arrests.
“She was a great woman, all around in the community—did a lot of community stuff. These donations in her memory...just keep her memory alive,” said Shove.
Shove said that over the last couple years, the department has hosted several CPR training events and helped place AEDs around the town in memory of Tolento.
Many of those AEDs have come from Defibtech. Defibtech Vice President of Global Marketing AJ Pace said that this kind of work is essential to what the company does and its mission.
“Some of the big corporate, social responsibility stuff we do is we try to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest,” Pace said. “So by doing that, we try to donate AEDs where we can, especially in the community.”
AEDs can be used by almost anyone with minimal training to check the rhythm of someone’s heart and administer electrical shocks to help restore normal function. Pace said Defibtech is always looking for places or ways it can use its technology to save lives.
Having an AED present during a cardiac arrest increases survival by 50 percent, Pace said. In Guilford, Pace said the company has donated AEDs to the Guilford school system as well as other public buildings.
Pace said that he first heard about Tolento’s passing from Shove. The company offered to donate AEDs at the time, but the Fire Department made it clear it was honoring Tolento through donated funds, so instead the company gave the department a discount, allowing for the purchase of two AED devices.
One of those currently resides in The Marketplace, where one of the store’s owners, Dee Jacob, said Tolento’s memory lives on every day.
“She had a laugh, and had the ability to get the attention of any of our younger employees,” Jacob said. “She would come in early in the morning and bake, and know what each and every one of the customers liked.”
The Marketplace has held a monthly charity drive since it opened, Jacob said, collecting change from customers that then goes to local charities. When Tolento passed, Jacob said the business decided to dedicate one month every year to raising money for the fire department, which was always Tolento’s favorite organization to support.
Over three years, the store has raised $3,000 for the department, Jacob said.
“We’re very happy that the fire department has been able to expand things in her honor that will help make the community safer, and increase their responsiveness,” Jacob said.
Jacob lauded the “easy access” to AEDs particularly in downtown, with a unit now on both Boston and Whitefield streets, as something that has come about in large part due to efforts in memory of Tolento.
“It’s so incredibly important to have,” she said.
An AED is designed for easy use, meaning the operator need not be a doctor—they simply turn the device on and follow the prompts. CPR can be more difficult to administer, but is an equally critical step. Fortunately, the Guilford Fire Department offers CPR classes for residents. For more information on classes, call Fire Headquarters at 203-453-8057.
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