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Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps

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Dr. Albin Kwak, Earl Sweitzer, Victor Ott, Lancaster, New York Police Ambulance Service

Friday, Jan. 22, marked the First Anniversary of the Town of Lancaster Police Ambulance.

During the first year of operation, the Police ambulance responded to a total of 228 emergency calls, and handled a total of 252 patients.

Of the 228 emergency calls answered, 75 were answered in the Village of Lancaster, 98 in the village of Depew, of which 18 were in that portion of the Village of Depew within the Township of Cheektowaga. The remaining 55 calls were answered in that portion of the Township of Lancaster outside of tho Villages of Depew and Lancaster.

Fifteen (15) doctors, local and out-of-town, have made use of the Town Police Emergency Ambulance Service.

or the 252 patients handled, 38 patients have died as a result of their affliction or Injuries.

of the number of calls to which the Police Ambulance responded, persons suffering from heart at tacks accounted for the majority, with automobile accidents second, hemorrhage third and persons suffering from strokes running fourth.

A year has gone by, a year during which the Town Ambulance, under the supervision of the Town of Lancaster Police, met the challenge to provide free emergency ambulance service for the Town of Lancaster and all of the Village of Depew. The Town Police gratefully acknowledge the fact that without the services of a small group of their Auxiliary Police who donated their time to serve as ambulance drivers and attendants, the past year would not have been so successful. They are also grateful to the local physicians; to those who have contributed toward the Police Ambulance Fund, and to all those who have in any way helped to make the Police Ambulance Emergency Service so successful. It is their hope that in the future they may continue to serve the Community with its need I for Emergency Ambulance Service.


by BOB IGGULDEN

"It was a beautiful day, couldn't have asked for a better day. It was warm and sunny all day." The words of Paul Welker describing August 10, 1996, the day Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps (LVAC) dedicated their new headquarters at 40 Embry Place. Paul and I were looking at a picture taken seven years ago. One of many pictures that adorn the walls at LVAC headquarters.

The pictures depict the people and the equipment used over the 50 years of the organizations life saving service. Many of the pictures are black and white showing an era of Emergency First Aid very few active members have any recollections of.

Paul Welker does have those recollections, the memories he was there at the "get go 1953. Official LVAC records show Paul joined in December 1952 Today he serves as a member of the LVAC Board of Directors and was recently honored at their annual banquet for his five decades of service. Paul even wrote A Short History (...of LVAC) that was part of the 2003 Banquet Program

As Paul walked me down memory lane viewing those pictures he recalled the people and events of those early years. A time when 24 people and one ambulance made up Lancaster's Ambulance Service. Paul moved to Lancaster from Bennington, NY after WWII and in 1953 became of those original 24.

In the late 1940 large populations beyond urban areas like Buffalo were few.

When you left the city you were in rural America. That would change in the next decade, the 1950's. The only "population centers" then were Crossroad hamlets like Clarence Center or Whales Center and incorporated villages like Springville, Akron or Lancaster.

People residing in areas beyond urban centers found themselves far from "Big City" hospitals but in need of their services none-the-less. Movement of folks out of urban areas had begun and suburban America, though in it's infancy, had begun.

The Lancaster Town Police Ambulance Service (LVAC's title in 1953) was the first volunteer ambulance service in Western New York The driving forces behind the ambulance squad's birth would come from diverse professional back grounds. Two doctors, Albert Addesa and Albin Kwak, would join Police Chief Earl Switzer and Police Captain (later Police Chief) Victor Ott and Assembly man Julius Volker would lead the effort that would establish Lancaster's volunteer ambulance service. Julius Volker, State Senator Dale Volker's father, guided the legal paper, work necessary to the squad's start up. It was the first ambulance service to be operated by and within a police department in the state. Gould Coupler of Depew, forerunner of Dresser Industries, donated a used late 1940's Mercury that would be the squad's first ambulance.

When established in 1953 it was called the Lancaster (Town) Police Department Ambulance Service. The membership was comprised of the 10 town police officers and 14 auxiliary uniforms were the same as the police uniform but had an ambulance department patch

Paul reminisced, "Most of the calls were in the evening we hang around the ambulance garage well into the evening just to be ready. We had no alarm system in those days."

In the beginning the imbalance volunteers averaged about 300 calls annually.

When the police received an ambulance request they would park their police car and drive the ambulance. If no one was available to operate the rig, phone calls were made to individual homes until a crew was assembled.

The original headquarters was 21 Central Avenue at Clark Street. The game area was on Clark Street and as the number of ambulances increased the garage space failed to keep up. In the summer months the ambulances were parked out side at Central Avenue. In the colder months the rigs were garaged on Storm Street.

Several changes were made to the dark street garage area over the years and several ambulances were added. In 1955 Ford Rescue Truck, in 1954 a Cadillac ambulance and then Pontiac ambulance were added all before 1970. In 1973 women joined the squad for the first time.

In 1975 the organization's name changed with incorporation. In that year the volunteer ambulance service became officially "The Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Inc." It was in this era that the Police Department Ambulance Service would briefly carry the name of Reserve Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

"We went to a lot of different hospitals in those early years," Paul reminisced "There was Doctor's Hospital in Tonawanda, Lafayette General, Columbus Emergency, St. Francis and Meyer Memorial (ECMC's former name) and St. Joseph's Hospital and Millard Fillmore Suburban didn't even exist. And all the training then was American Red Cross First Aid and we had no PCR'S."

Bob Urban was LVAC's first President, Jack Bromwich served as LVAC's first Director of Operations (equivalent to office of Fire Chief) and Agnis "Sam" Donner would be the first woman to serve as LVAC's Director of Operations. Since the beginning, the Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps has served the Town and Village of Lancaster and the Village of Depew.

American Red Cross First Aid training gave way to a new Emergency Medical Technician Program in the early 1970's and those who took the course were EMT. LVAC members became part of the new program. In the mid 1980's the squad upgraded its EMS provider service as some members moved up to a higher level, The EMT Intermediate Around 1992 LVAC went Para medic.

Today the ambulance corps has Paramedics, EMT Intermediates and EMT-D's, 41 in all, plus drivers and trainees numbering nearly 90 people providing emergency medical pre-hospital care to the Lancaster Community. The membership comes from all over WNY, name a town near Lancaster and a member probably hails from there.

After 43 years at Central Avenue in the Village of Lancaster LVAC now calls 40 Embry Drive (of Walden) its home. The headquarters houses four ambulances and a fly car plus a training room, squad room, bunk rooms for night crews and offices for the elected officers.

LVAC serves a suburban population of more than 50,000 and the alarms have increased 10 fold, what was 300 a year in the 1950's now exceeds 3,000.

In its 50th year of service to Lancaster and Depew, LVAC is headed by President, Greg Jankiewiz, Vice President, Andrew Mintz, Treasurer, Nancy Franjoine and Secretary Gary Kozlowski. LVAC's Directors of Operations is Jason Toleman and Jeff Sanza, Jason Christie and Patrick McDonnell serve Tolman's Assistant Directors of Operation. Current Board of Directors are Paul Welker, Kyle Haniszewaki and David Stonebreaker. A Tip-O-the-Hat to Paul Welker for his 50 years of service and his historical research. Thanks too for the great walk down memory lane, who was it that said, "A picture is worth a thousand words."





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