For some, sitting still is a foreign concept. Such is the case with attorney David Bondanza, who in addition to his law practice spends 60 to 80 hours per month as a volunteer emergency medical technician in Canton, Conn.
Bondanza was just 19 when he began working for a commercial emergency medical service company in Buffalo, N.Y., where he attended college as an engineering major. "I've always felt you should give back to the community," he said. "What really started it was when I was working and going to school—at that point, it was a paid job. When I got out of school, I started volunteering because it seemed like a way to give back."
Bondanza said just as attorneys need to be quick studies as they bring themselves up to speed on a case, the same goes for EMTs.
"Every time you take a call, you learn something new—whether it be in health care, criminal law, victims' rights," he said. "Every situation is different."
The EMT work is just one facet of Bondanza's diverse non-legal life. He started his career as a television engineer, has experience in information technologies, is an adjunct instructor at Kaplan University and even makes jigsaw puzzles out of his own photos. He's also a zoning commissioner in Canton.
"Every time I turn around there's something unique to learn about David," said Raymond M. Hassett, a principal at Hassett & George in Simsbury, where Bondanza's practice areas include employment, criminal, family and juvenile law, as well as commercial litigation. "One of my kids wanted to know how to become a pilot, and we're talking, and Bondanza says, 'Well, you can be 16 and fly. I've flown all over the East Coast.'"
Just one year out of college, in 1980 Bondanza began working as an engineer for Nickelodeon, which was then a small, three-year-old cable channel. "There was an afternoon show on called 'PopClips' with zany videos, created by one of the members of the 1960s group 'The Monkees,'" he said. The show, conceived by Mike Nesmith, was the direct forefather of what would soon become Music Television, or MTV.
Bondanza got married and moved to Long Island, where MTV was headquartered. "I was fortunate enough to have started the transmitter and was in the room at the launch of the channel," he said.
Though busy with his TV career, he still had a craving for volunteer work. Bondanza joined Long Island's Miller Place Fire Department. He founded — and was elected captain of — a new EMS Corps of volunteers. In 1993, he obtained a private pilot's license.
In 1995, Bondanza moved to Connecticut upon being hired by WVIT-TV (now known as NBC-30) as the station's director of engineering. That same year, he joined the Town of Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS fire division. A few years later, he joined the EMS division. One of his most memorable experiences occurred during his early years in Canton.
"I responded to a call for a woman in labor," he said. "The woman had contractions less than two minutes apart. As occasionally happens, we were in position to deliver the baby, who would not wait.
"My partner and I delivered the baby. The baby initially was not breathing," Bondanza continued. "In about 20 seconds, the skills we practice in EMS brought about a loud cry and we had a wonderful outcome. It was a moment I will never forget."
From 2000 until 2002, he was the appointed chief of emergency services for the entire town of Canton. It wasn't until 2002 he decided to attend law school. "A friend I made while I was chief said I ought to consider going to law school," said Bondanza. "He said, 'It's intellectually challenging—and you seem to want to help others; it's a good way to do that.'"
Bondanza attended Quinnipiac University School of Law. Raymond Hassett hired him shortly after he graduated, impressed by the new lawyer's "wealth of experience" in other arenas.
"I think his work as an EMT is something he gets a great deal of personal satisfaction and reward from and that's why he continues to do it," Hassett said. "It makes him worldly with his perception, in seeing all sides of people, which helps him be both a better lawyer and a better person."
Bondanza currently averages 75 hours per month of EMS work. He is the crew leader on the wee hours of Friday night into Saturday morning. For 15 years, Jim Juhl worked alongside Bondanza.
"Dave's schedule is tough but he always makes sure he is there," said Juhl. "He's personable and enjoys talking to people. He never mentions he's a lawyer. He's a conversationalist—he has the ability to talk people down to a place where they're calmer."
Bondanza has noticed that few other professionals volunteer for EMS service. He offers some insight into why that might be true. "Getting up at 4 a.m. to meet a person who's had too much to drink, got into a fight, or has a drug problem, and then transporting them to the hospital, isn't what most would enjoy on their day off," he said. "But these are simply people who need help."•