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Glen Oaks ambulance ferries people to safety

Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps. officials -- Community Affairs Co-chairman Travis Kessel, member Mike Kopun and President Kathy Sexton -- sit on the back of an ambulance packed with items for Hurricane Sandy victims. The group brought supplies to West Hamilton Beach and Breezy Point. Photo by Christina Santucci
Gloria Rivera and her daughter, also named Gloria, carry their container of fuel. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

The Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps. came to the rescue of stranded patients during the hurricane and afterward the group felt it was their duty to help out neighborhoods that bore the brunt of Sandy.

“Because we were lucky with not getting hit so hard out here in Glen Oaks and in the neighboring Queens areas, we had to do what was right, and the right thing for us to do was to try to help those we could,” said corps community affairs Co-Chair Travis Kessel, who by day is a judicial law student at St. John’s University.

As the storm approached the East Coast, a crew was called into action to evacuate patients at the NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, and the following day, an ambulance was sent to Resort Nursing Home in Averne. At NYU, members helped to remove 20 patients, and in Rockaway the team of four people coordinated the transport of dozens of residents.

“They made sure all 171 of those patients, including 22 that were critical who had not had dialysis in about four or five days, they made sure they got to the right medical facilities,” Kessel said of the Averne assignment.

President Kathy Sexton, the corps’ president, said the evacuation efforts were performed in addition to the group’s regular service with two crews of ambulances stationed at the headquarters, at 257-02 Union Turnpike, to respond to local calls during the storm.

“A lot of these buildings over here actually lost all of their power the first night of the hurricane, “ Sexton said of northeast Queens.

In one instance, volunteers carried an elderly man out of a dark apartment building in Glen Oaks, down seven flights of stairs and along the street on a stretcher because the road was blocked on both sides by downed trees.

“We had crews here on duty, round the clock, and in some cases people were sleeping here between shifts – in some cases that was because people didn’t have power in their homes,” said community affairs Co-Chair Henry Ehrhadt, who serves as a customer service director for the city Sanitation Department. The headquarters has two cots set up on their second floorand the group boasts a membership of more than 120 people, including about 20 youth members.

In the days following the storm, the group brought donations to Brooklyn, Long Island, West Hamilton Beach and Breezy Point, and the headquarters served as a drop-off site for local organizations, including Our Lady of the Snows parish and PS 94 in Little Neck, which have pooled their efforts to provide clothes, food and toys for storm victims.

On Saturday, two vehicles were sent out to southern neighborhoods in Queens – chocked full of supplies.

“As we are bringing stuff in, there are people leaving with the stuff they need,” said Kessel, who coordinated the relief drive.As the relief efforts continue, the group emphasized the different items they are hoping to collect.

“The need for clothing isn’t there and we have nowhere to store it,” Kessel said. Instead, the corps is asking for cleaning and medical supplies – mops, brooms, garbage bags, bleach and bandages.

“They are running short on a lot of regular stuff like regular old band-aids, but they also don’t have enough oxygen tanks. If they are empty, we can transport them, because they are not dangerous to transport empty,” he said.

Sexton, who works as a pre-school special education teacher, praised the group’s members and the youth squad for pitching in.

“I’m very proud of all of our members who came through,” she said. “These are people with families. They have their husbands, their wives, but they came down and they did a great job.”

Reach photo editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com or by phone at 718-260-4589.

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