June 6, 2024
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Legendary Ambulance 73.

With EMS Week set to end this Shabbat, May 25, the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps (TVAC) is marking three monumental milestones that will culminate in a “TVAC EMS Week Block Party,” this Sunday, May 26, from 11 a.m.—3 p.m. at TVAC headquarters, located at 855 Windsor Road in Teaneck. Festivities will include great food, music, bounce houses and all kinds of activities for the kids.

One of the milestones being celebrated is TVAC’s 85th anniversary. Established in 1939, “TVAC has emerged as a microcosm of the diversity of the township,” said Dr. Eliyahu Cooper, TVAC’s vice president and medical director. As a TVAC volunteer since he was just 17 years old, he described TVAC as representing “the very best of Teaneck,” and with over 150 members ranging in age from 15 to their late 70s, he added, “We have people in all stages of life and from all walks of life…men, women, people of all ages and religions…working together and really showcasing the diversity of this town.”

TVAC’s members and families during the Teaneck township parade on July 4, 2023.

The ambulance corps will also be celebrating two of its ambulances: the legendary 73 and its brand new ambulance 76. “Just this year we took delivery of our brand new ambulance 76, which will be inaugurated, while at the same time retiring our beloved ambulance 73, which has been in service since 1989. So we will be celebrating 35 years of history with that,” Cooper continued.

“Combining all of those things together we thought it was a perfect opportunity to celebrate TVAC’s 85th year and say goodbye, in a sense, to a ‘good friend,’” he added. “Our membership is very fond of 73, so it is a way for us to acknowledge that and its retirement.”

TVAC member and Captain of Personnel Dr. Abby Cooper explained that “getting a new ambulance isn’t something that happens everyday. Ambulances are not cheap. They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the last time TVAC got a new ambulance was back in 2015.”

Ambulance 76.

TVAC’s new ambulance 76 will be added to the fleet following a traditional “wet-down” that will be done together with the Teaneck Fire Department.

TVAC ambulance 73 has a long and storied history. For 35 years, it has played a vital role in the township and holds a tremendous amount of significance and sentimental value to the corps’ 150-plus members. With over 136,00 miles, 73 has responded to over 17,000 emergency calls, 2,300 automobile accidents, more than 285 fires, over 145 CPR calls and 20 plus labor and childbirth calls.

“TVAC was the first squad in the area to move to a type 3 ambulance—an ambulance with a truck body in the front and a box in the back,” explained TVAC President Rabbi Daniel Senter. TVAC first acquired unit 73 in 1989 and the vehicle was considered so revolutionary that Rescue-EMS News did a feature on it, showcasing the famous 73 flanked by TVAC members gracing the cover of the magazine.

“It greatly enhanced TVAC’s ability to treat patients in the back of the ambulance far more effectively than ever, and because it arrived around the same time that ALS (Advanced Life Support) was starting to be incorporated in EMS vehicles, it gave EMS volunteers a lot more flexibility to treat patients.” Type 3 ambulances are also considerably more expensive. “Even though TVAC fights for every penny, we will never compromise on patient care,” Rabbi Senter emphatically stated.

A picture taken of TVAC members in the spring of 1946 after returning from World War II. TVAC founder Cornelius VanDyk sits at the left of the front row. Behind them is the original 1936 La Salle that was still in service at the time the photo was taken.

During COVID, Teaneck was hit much harder than many other communities in the country. “Teaneck was [at the] the epicenter of COVID and, baruch Hashem, TVAC did not miss a beat. Twenty-four hours a day the ambulance corps responded to every single one of its calls,” Rabbi Senter said.

He continued, “TVAC really did remarkable work. Although several members did get sick, it did not impede TVAC’s efforts and their work was written up in all the national newspapers and regularly featured on the news.

“In acknowledgement and recognition of TVAC’s herculean efforts, the ambulance corps received some government funding that allowed it to finally add 76 to its fleet which was custom-built to to take the place of the 73,” he said.

But manufacturing delays due to COVID resulted in 76 being delivered a whopping two years later than planned. “73 gave us two more years than we had anticipated, putting it in active service for 35 years—barring the two times it was being refurbished—which is unheard of, for an ambulance to be in service for that length of time,” Dr. Abby Cooper noted.

Although 73 will be retired, it will still be on hand for special occasions like the township’s annual July 4th parade and other social gatherings and events.

TVAC is looking forward to an amazing day and hopes the block party inspires more people to join. “We will be celebrating and bringing awareness of who we are and what we do.” said Dr. Eliyahu Cooper, who has been with TVAC for 23 years. Indeed, TVAC is who responds when people call 911 for an ambulance in Teaneck. Just last year TVAC responded to over 4,600 calls. “We are always looking for more members because we’re busier than ever.”

Rabbi Senter, who has been with TVAC for over 20 years, said, “I feel very honored that I am able to be there in a position where, hopefully, I can also offer some direction to some of our younger members.”

A resident of Teaneck since the age of 10, Rabbi Senter had always marveled at the idea of joining the ambulance corps. However, life had pulled him in different directions, and it wasn’t until his then 16-year-old daughter Dena decided to join that Rabbi Senter made the decision to join TVAC too. Since then, Rabbi Senter has served in just about every capacity in TVAC from line officer to President of the Board of Trustees, and his daughter Dena is a nurse practitioner.

The TVAC Ambulance Fleet.

TVAC is completely volunteer, but Dr. Abby Cooper, who joined TVAC in 2003, shared, “To find people who are willing to take that amount of time out of their lives is hard to come by; however, you end up with incredibly interesting and special people.”

She added, “People make lifelong friendships at TVAC which is pretty amazing because everyone is there for the same reason and with the same goal—they just want to help people and they have a strong desire to do just that.”

Previous experience is not necessary and TVAC offers an in-house training program in addition to the EMT class where members get certified. As a volunteer service, TVAC does not bill patients and all funds come from donations, grants and from the township in the amount that state law allows to cover expenses. But the ambulance corps needs the support of Teaneck residents.

Three TVAC crews meet up at Holy Name Hospital during three simultaneous calls. Pictured are TVAC members Shimmie Katz,
Bob Krane, Benji Mansano, Rachel Max, Abby Cooper, Pete Philomey, Rabbi Daniel Senter and Joe MacDiarmid (inside middle ambulance).

For more information and to learn about how you can support TVAC as part of EMS Week, visit the EMS Week website at emsweek.teaneckambulance.org

For general information or information on how to join, visit www.teaneckambulance.org

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