For over 80 years, the men and women of Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps (TVAC) have been making themselves available to help the residents of Teaneck in their time of need. When an emergency comes in, TVAC members drop whatever they’re doing and rush to the scene no matter what day it is or what time the emergency arises. And all of this is done for absolutely no compensation by volunteers who are showing up with one singular goal in mind: to find a way to help.
This past week, TVAC ran an awareness and fundraising campaign in honor of National EMS Week, with the goal to spread a broader understanding of what TVAC does every single day. “TVAC is largely dependent on the financial support of our local residents,” said Rabbi Daniel Senter, President of TVAC. “We receive a donation from the township, but it only covers a small portion of our annual budget.”
In order to help facilitate awareness about TVAC, prior to EMS Week TVAC distributed free TVAC lawn signs to the community, hand delivered via ambulance to people’s houses and to local businesses by TVAC members. This effort was organized by Ana Ipecki, chair of TVAC’s Community Engagement Committee, who designed and printed the signs and arranged for their delivery.
“It’s really great to see our community come together and show their support for all our volunteers,” Ipecki said. “This is a small token of appreciation that we are happy to give to those who stand behind us and the service we provide to others.”
EMS week started with a TVAC awareness weekend throughout the local houses of worship, spanning 17 Teaneck shuls, as well as several local churches and mosques. At each location throughout the township, a speaker gave an overview of what TVAC is and what they do. Since TVAC’s members are also members of the community, many of the houses of worship have TVAC members who are members of the congregation, and in some instances it was those members who spoke.
The weekend was coordinated by Dr. Eliyahu Cooper, medical director and vice president at TVAC. “Coordinating this weekend in more than 20 locations throughout the community was a major undertaking,” Dr. Cooper said. “It involved the tireless efforts of two dozen of TVAC’s members who reached into every corner of the community to make sure TVAC’s message would be heard. Since TVAC’s members come from so many different parts of the community, this is also an opportunity for them to be recognized within their own communal institutions.”
Continuing the awareness weekend, this past Sunday TVAC stood by at the annual Teaneck 5K, staffing three ambulances, a gator and an emergency response bike team, all ready to respond to emergencies as they arose. As the 5K finished, TVAC’s members then gathered in Votee Park at a TVAC EMS Week appreciation picnic, where they were offered the opportunity to socialize and enjoy time together outside of the high-stress ambulance environment.
But the week’s activities didn’t end there. This past Monday, TVAC partnered with Hackensack University Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Wayne Hospital in teaching “Stop the Bleed” at Torah Academy of Bergen County, and on Tuesday many of TVAC’s members attended a special award ceremony at the Teaneck Town Council Chambers where they received awards such as CPR Save awards and Meritorious Service awards. In addition, two members received length-of-service awards: Peter Philomey, who recently reached 40 years of service, and Ari Lifschitz, who recently reached 20 years.
In addition to providing emergency life-saving care to the residents of Teaneck, TVAC supports the town’s residents in many other realms. “TVAC recently piloted training initiatives which we are excited to now extend to the full community,” said Scott Reiss, TVAC’s training officer. “Recognizing that life-threatening emergencies can happen fast, we are partnering with synagogues, schools and other organizations to train individuals to take critical actions immediately to save a life. Those nearest to a sick or injured individual are best positioned to call 911 and provide immediate life-saving care such as stopping critical bleeding, performing the Heimlich, starting CPR or using an available defibrillator.
“TVAC is now established as a formal training center with a team of certified instructors who can deliver this life-saving training on site,” Reiss continued. “Additionally, TVAC conducts CPR/AED and First-Aid certification courses for the community at large.”
For TVAC’s members, who all dedicate countless hours week after week for no compensation, volunteering for TVAC isn’t only a job: it is a calling. “Growing up I watched my parents drop everything to run to help people in their time of need,” said Jamie Orgen, who joined TVAC almost three years ago. “I knew from a young age I wanted to do that, too.” Orgen’s parents, Eric and Karen, are both Life Members at TVAC, and she grew up with TVAC as a permanent fixture in her life.
Joe MacDiarmid described his work at TVAC as a “mission.” “We’re here to help,” MacDiarmid said. Previously a member of New Milford Volunteer Ambulance Corps, MacDiarmid joined TVAC’s ranks due to its renowned reputation. “I heard nothing but good things about this organization. I met a few young members, who were very impressive and held themselves to very high standards and I said, ‘This is where I want to be.’”
For more information about TVAC, visit their website at www.teaneckambulance.org. To donate to TVAC’s EMS week campaign, visit www.emsweek.teaneckambulance.org.
Abby Cooper is a lieutenant of personnel at Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps and a reserve member at Bergenfield Volunteer Ambulance Corps. She is also a resident of Bergenfield and proud mother of five kids.