May 29, 2024
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May 29, 2024
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TVAC Celebrates With Awards Ceremony and Street Renaming

It was a glorious Sunday morning as Teaneck came together to honor the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corp. It’s no coincidence that the ceremony coincided with the conclusion of National EMS Week. “EMS Week is a time to thank paramedics, EMTs and the entire emergency medical services workforce for their service and sacrifices,” TVAC President Eric Orgen said. “It’s also an opportunity for TVAC to continue to raise public awareness about the critical role that we play in our community.”

The ceremony opened with the “Star Spangled Banner” performed by TVAC member Captain Anastasia Ipekci, followed by the awards ceremony invocation led by former TVAC member Deacon Kevin Regan and Rabbi Daniel Fridman.

Regan called TVAC “a marvelous example of charity” and urged the community to continue offering their love and support to this valued organization. Rabbi Fridman quoted the phrase from the Talmud “One who saves a single life has saved the entire world.” He called it an honor to be in the presence of so many people who have saved so many worlds. “TVAC represents Teaneck at its very finest. People of all different backgrounds, creeds, religions, races serving people of all different creeds, religions backgrounds and races together with equity, professionalism, dignity.

“Let’s not take for granted what we have here,” Rabbi Fridman continued. “TVAC represents the glue of this town. … We live in divisive and polarized times and to be able to have an instrument as effective and efficient as TVAC in holding us together is critical to the well-being of our entire township.” He stressed that “TVAC is, and must remain, the only emergency response service in this town, because you are saving worlds and because you are bringing us together.”

The speeches were followed by a moment of silence for those who have fallen and those who are unwell.

Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Zur was called up to extend her gratitude on behalf of Bergen County and said that TVAC exemplifies “what is best about the community as a whole,” calling the organization the “lifeblood of the community.”

A representative from Congressman Josh Gottheimer’s office then presented TVAC with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition, certified in Washington. Orgen thanked Gottheimer, as well as Congressman Bill Pascrell, for helping TVAC secure a $250,000 grant towards the purchase of a new ambulance, which is expected to arrive early next year.

Before the awards were handed out, Orgen welcomed Mayor Jim Dunleavy; Deputy Mayor Elie Y. Katz; Deputy Mayor Mark Schwartz; Council member and former TVAC President Karen Orgen; Councilman Michael Pagan; and former mayor and TVAC life member Kevie Feit.

Orgen followed with a special acknowledgment to TVAC’s fellow first responders including “Teaneck’s finest, from the Teaneck Police Department, our brother and sisters; Teaneck’s bravest on the fire department; and Teaneck’s strongest, our members of the DPW who work hand-in-hand with TVAC.”

“This year we celebrate more than just the excellent and lifesaving treatments our hard-working TVAC members and EMTs provide to Teaneck day and night,” Orgen began. He spoke about how in 2020 TVAC experienced one of its busiest periods since its founding, as the organization fielded and responded to a record number of calls. “TVAC’s reputation as trusted professionals with an unwavering dedication to our patients and to the township, has been on display every day. I’m incredibly proud of our resilience and our remarkable service.”

Orgen emphasized that the awardees do not volunteer for the recognition, and that each member has his or her own reason for serving. He said that collectively it was out of “a sense of giving back to our community and providing emergency medical services to those in need that bring us all together.”

When Teaneck Township Manager Dean Kazinci was called up to say a few words, he began by reassuring both TVAC and the assembled crowd that it will remain the only EMS service in the township. His words were met with thunderous applause. “There’s no playbook for what happened during COVID, but TVAC stepped up to the plate. TVAC has always been steadfast, committed, devoted to the town. … You are the staple of the community.”

For the COVID Service awards, Orgen began by describing how the organization is made up of “members who put themselves in danger on each and every single call … voluntarily without pay and always put their patient before themselves.” He then introduced former TVAC Chief Jacob Finkelstein to read off the names of the awards recipients.

“On March 11, 2020, TVAC responded to our first COVID-19 call,” Finkelstein began. “As you all know, things escalated very quickly, making March and April two months we at the ambulance corp will never forget … daily call volume doubled.” He related how each call took longer, requiring extra decontamination and extra PPE; how the organization quickly adapted to new protocols and swept aside any fear of contracting the virus. “You did not let anything get in the way of helping people in the time of their greatest need. There are no words to describe what an amazing job you all did.”

And in true TVAC spirit, shortly after a few names had been read aloud, an emergency call came in and a crew quickly ran out to answer it.

Mayor Jim Dunleavy presented members with the COVID Administration Awards. “You could have taken the easy way out,” he said. “Instead, you ran towards the problem.” He spoke of how TVAC’s membership actually increased during the pandemic and what a tremendous tribute that was to their TVAC president, to Teaneck and to themselves. He reiterated that the town council “stands absolutely behind TVAC and what it means to this town. And it will be the only service in this town for as long as we’re here, because you are the best.”

The Purple Heart Awards, presented by TVAC life member Larry J. Robertson, were handed out to members Pete Philomey and Jared Kramer. The two EMS workers contracted COVID-19 in the ICU and then returned to active service as soon as they were medically cleared to do so.

To present the CPR Saves Award, Deputy Mayor Mark Schwartz, an 18-year TVAC member himself, was invited up. He mentioned that “ceremonies like this are a great way to award our TVAC members with the recognition and the awards they deserve far better than a few minutes before a council meeting.” He went on to thank the parents, spouses and families of TVAC members for their patience and understanding when their TVAC relatives run out of the house in order to save lives.

Before each award, Schwartz read the date of the event, since “these are dates that people right now are alive because of what you did on those days … because those people who were saved will remember those dates for the rest of their lives.”

To help deliver the Stork Awards, Councilman Michael Pagan was introduced. He began by thanking TVAC and added that “TVAC has been saving lives since 1939, but what you all did during this pandemic alone is downright incredible.”

In a touching moment, Karen Orgen (the former TVAC president and currently a Teaneck councilwoman) came up to hand out the final Stork Award to her husband, TVAC President Eric Orgen, and daughter, TVAC member Jamie Orgen, who together with Amiel Rimberg and Joel Varnai, delivered a baby on December 25, 2020.

The TVAC Medal of Valor Award is given to those members who distinguish themselves by heroism while serving with TVAC. Katz, who is a TVAC life member in addition to being deputy mayor, presented the award to Jacob Finkelstein and Leah Kahan. They were off-duty when they heard a call for a house fire and sprang into action, arriving before any other emergency personnel to help evacuate three occupants from the burning structure. “When everyone else is running out, they’re running in,” Katz said. “And that’s what TVAC did during COVID.”

The final award for TVAC Member of the Year 2020 was presented to Jacbob Finkelstein. Joe Harris, vice president of TVAC, presented the award, saying: “At a young age he has come forward. He has taken us through the hardest times. He delivered when things were tough.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Orgen invited everyone back to TVAC headquarters for refreshments before the much anticipated re-naming of Windsor Road.

“It’s long overdue, but we all knew that we owned this corner over here. Congratulations TVAC. Keep up the great work,” Katz said just before revealing the new street sign.

Dunleavy then presented Orgen with a certificate for the renaming of Windsor Road to TVAC Way to a heartfelt round of applause.

By Ronit Mershon


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