After three years of being without headquarters due to a devastating fire in 1999, the Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ new facility is nearing completion but still needs $100,000 to finish it.
“We’ve lost so much visibility because people don’t see our sign or know we are still operating,” said Ted Rabinowitz, Glen Oaks VAC president.
Although the new facility, being built on the site of the former building that started out as a home and served as VAC headquarters for 17 years, was supposed to be completed this spring, it will be another few months before it’s ready.
“We are estimating it will be finished between July and September,” Rabinowitz said. “It was going well and then the contractors got hit with a lot of rain and bad weather but these things happen in construction.”
What does concern Rabinowitz and his 70 members is paying off the project. That’s why his group has organized a local mailing in hopes of getting each household to give at least $25. “That’s a little more than $2 a month to help us with our over $75,000 a year operating costs,” the president said.
The group has sent out 15,000 letters and is hoping a minimum of 2,000 households will respond with money.
“We literally won’t be able to finish the basement if we don’t have enough money,” Rabinowitz said, noting that that is where the ambulance and crew will be located.
He is also concerned about the rising cost of insurance. “Since September 11th, all insurance premiums went up between 10-14 percent. That amounts to $40,000 to $50,000 for us.”
As an incentive for giving, the Glen Oaks VAC is also offering local residents the chance to purchase special engraved tribute bricks to honor a loved one or event. Each brick will be laser engraved and placed in a memorial garden to be located in the side yard of the new facility.
The special-offer price now is $100 for a 4 by 8-inch brick and $250 for an 8 by 8-inch brick. The price will go up after completion of the building.
Second Vice President Jerry Gelbard is hoping that major corporations will see fit to make donations to the group.
The fire that destroyed the VAC headquarters at Union Turnpike and 257th Street was caused by faulty wiring in the basement of the house that had served as headquarters for so many years.
The new brick building is slated to have two floors and space for two ambulances. It will include a dispatch and crew area, offices and training rooms and a meeting room, which can be used by the public.
Funding for the $750,000 facility is primarily coming from a grant from state Senator Frank Padavan, a $250,000 loan secured by the VAC and insurance money from the fire.
A lengthy delay occurred last year while VAC members waited to get approval as a firehouse, which excludes it from having to provide an expensive handicapped accessible elevator.
Construction finally got under way in December after that designation was secured. The group continues to work out of a ground-floor apartment behind the oval at 74th Avenue and 260th Street, where the VAC began its service in 1974.
Areas served include New Hyde Park, Floral Park, Oakland Gardens, Bellerose and Glen Oaks.
The ambulance corps is always looking for new members, although Rabinowitz is happy with the high number he already has considering its current cramped headquarters. It also has a youth corps for teenagers. Training is provided for all new members in CPR, emergency medical training and a certified first responder program.
The group responds to about 70 calls a month for a total of 22,085 since its inception 28 years ago. It is staffed on a regular basis on weekdays and around the clock on weekends.
“Once we have our own building, it will definitely improve for us because people will be able to see us and know we are around,” said Rabinowitz, who has been with the group since 1975.
The ambulance corps can be reached at 347-1637. A special information hot line is also available at 347-0333. Check donations may be mailed to the Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps at 257-02 Union Turnpike, Floral Park, NY 11004.