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In a city where an ambulance ride could cost more than $1,000, a Whitestone volunteer ambulance group offers emergency transport at no cost, but the free ride might not last.
An April 7 fund-raiser hopes to collect money for the Whitestone Community Volunteer Ambulance Service, which is running dry on funding, according to Charles Silverstein, captain of the service.
“If we don’t do anything, we will end up closing,” he said. “But we’re doing stuff, so that’s not going to happen.”
The service, located in a two-story building at 12-15 150th St., operates two vehicles with a staff of about 80 people, which includes youth volunteers, board members, affiliates, captains and the actual volunteer staff who man the ambulances and phones.
It is the busiest service in the city, and took about 1,700 calls over the course of last year. It provides three main functions: emergency transport to a hospital, especially when the service gets plugged into the 911 system; transport to or from hospitals for patients in a non-emergency; or standing by at sporting events or parades in case of emergency.
Although the service offers free rides, donations are warmly welcomed. In fact, that is how the service survives from year to year, according to Silverstein.
It costs about $120,000 per year just to pay the bare-bones costs, he said.
Previously the organization received marginal funding from state and city grants, but as the belts tightened in Albany and City Hall, they put the squeeze on volunteer nonprofits. Instead, the service gets most of its money from a biannual letter sent out to Whitestone residents asking for donations.
But even monetary gifts from the letters have not been enough to cover all the costs lately, according to Silverstein, who said that mismanagement of funds in the past has left the service with a small debt.
But the service is not flat lining yet.
Devon O’Connor, founder of the Welcome To Whitestone Commercial and Residential Civic Association and board member of the ambulance service, is set to host the second annual fund-raiser the first Saturday in April from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Dabby’s, at 11-02 Clintonville Road.
Local businesses will donate the food and refreshments for the event, which will feature play areas for children and a chance to get some face time with the Easter Bunny himself.
Silverstein said the service has new board members, and the event is just one of many fund-raising events designed to reach out to the community.
In the process of getting out the word for his event, O’Connor said many newer neighborhood residents do not even know that the service exists.
“When I was handing out fliers, nobody even knew what it was,” he said.
O’Connor and Silverstein hope to change that, with a little help from Peter Cottontail.
Tickets for the event are $10, and all proceeds will go toward the ambulance service, O’Connor said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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