July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Nearly $100K Raised to Benefit BVAC’s Direct Response Program

Dr. Avi Retter, a Bergenfield resident, decided during the yomim tovim that he had questions about how his local ambulance services operated. On Shemini Atzeret, he found himself conveniently stuck in a shul tent during a downpour with Bergenfield Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BVAC) Chief Ryan Shell. They spent almost an hour together, speaking about the vibrant nonprofit volunteer organization. Retter’s final question was what BVAC needed that he could provide, and whether the corps had any weaknesses that could be resolved with funding.

As a result of that single conversation with Shell, specifically learning about BVAC’s incredibly knowledgeable and well-trained ambulance corps, Retter took it upon himself to raise close to $100,000 for its benefit.

“I’m an oncologist,” he explained, emphasizing that he is not an experienced professional fundraiser of any kind. “I never called anyone to raise money before, but I decided this was so important that I should break out of my comfort zone.

“Ryan explained to me that historically BVAC functioned like every other ambulance corps. People on call would sleep at the headquarters or would be on call and drive to the ambulance when they were paged,” said Retter.

“About five years ago, in order to improve response times, BVAC provided some EMTs with equipment so they could respond directly to emergencies from their homes,” Shell told The Jewish Link. “Due to financial constraints, however, this was limited to a small number of members.”

Because of this new fundraising effort, Shell changed the model so that all corps members could respond immediately from home, with a go-pack of materials in their car. Thus their response time and time of starting care can improve dramatically, a factor that has a measurable impact on survival in certain emergencies like cardiac events.

“Ryan retrained the dispatchers and reformulated BVAC so every responder is paged, should they choose to respond even when they are not on call,” said Retter, adding that funding had not yet extended to providing go-packs for all corp members. “The large majority of them do not have the equipment and BVAC did not have money for the equipment.”

Retter decided then and there that he would commit to raising these funds, and found that since the large majority of donations to BVAC have traditionally come from the non-Orthodox community, he would bring the case of BVAC to various Bergenfield-based Orthodox donors and ask them to participate in the new “Direct Responder Program.”

“As I tried to understand how the funding worked, I realized there is a general misunderstanding about the nature of BVAC and its funding. People think it’s run by the town and their tax dollars pay for it. While the town is a donor to BVAC, it’s not enough; it is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations and volunteers,” said Retter.

“At the same time, I know we live in a community that has resources. And our community’s most basic need is that our first responders should be able to come to the house with a basic bag containing a two-way radio, an EpiPen, a defibrillator, Narcan, etc., and that every active responder should have this equipment in their cars.”

“This really is the definition of aniyei ircha kodmim [that the needs of one’s local community come first]. My goal was that I could raise $75,000 to $100,000. Many people were appreciative of the opportunity to contribute, and it also provided me with the opportunity to educate others about BVAC,” said Retter.

“I collected the commitments until I was satisfied I would get the entirety funded. Then I approached the board and administration of BVAC, and got a commitment from them that the direct response bags would be sustained in perpetuity, replenishing used or expired equipment and providing equipment for new active responders.

“I also want to give credit to Avi Elishis and Avrumi Bram, who gave me advice on how to approach this and provided me with tremendous chizuk along the way,” Retter added.

“With God’s help and through the generosity of the Bergenfield community, this will be an essential change in the paradigm of volunteer ambulance services locally. Hopefully other services will follow this model because this is how we will save lives. It will cut down on response time and allow more people to respond at any given moment.

“BVAC is always looking for new volunteers, which is not something money can buy. These are really special people, who are really dedicated to saving people’s lives.”

By Elizabeth Kratz

 

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