Desperate need. That’s one way to describe the situation in Brooklyn, New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, which happens to be home to International President Douglas Alexander. Historically a disadvantaged neighborhood, Bed-Stuy, as it’s known to locals, needed an ambulance, residents often waiting 45 minutes for help to arrive. With demand outpacing resources, people were dying.
Eager to help, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) James ‘Rocky’ Robinson and Joe Perez launched Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BSVAC) with a single used vehicle. Passionate about improving outcomes, the duo worked tirelessly to bring average emergency response time below four minutes. It’s no wonder countless lives were saved through BSVAC, which provided service at no charge to those without insurance.
All was good – briefly. Then, the lone ambulance began needing costly repairs. As a volunteer squad, BSVAC could barely afford fuel, let alone a new ambulance. Enter IP Alexander’s home club, Brooklyn Bedford-Stuyvesant Lions Club. Learning of BSVAC’s mission, club members began buying gas and tires for the ambulance, but more was needed.
That’s when the idea of a brand-new ambulance was talked about at a club meeting. But how would their club raise US$50,000? “It got very quiet in the room,” said IP Alexander. But then, members started to pledge US$500, US$1,000. Then they realized they could apply for an LCIF grant. A new life-saving ambulance that once seemed an unreachable goal could soon become reality.
LCIF awarded Brooklyn Bedford Stuyvesant Lions Club a US$17,500 grant. “It was a very proud day in Bedford-Stuyvesant,” said IP Alexander of the day Lions presented the new ambulance to BSVAC.
With a modern ambulance and volunteer heroes dedicated to saving neighbors’ lives, Bed-Stuy was suddenly safer. In addition to emergency medical services, BSVAC is a training facility, training first responders of all ages, from teaching children to how to administer first aid and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, to an EMT training program. More than 2,000 local residents have learned to deliver these critical services, hundreds going on to become professional EMTs, nurses, paramedics, and doctors.
“We started mainly to save lives,” said BSVAC Commanding Officer Antoine Robinson, son of the late Rocky Robinson. “But we also wanted to change lives. People on welfare, who have no way out, no connections to plug into… We give them opportunity. BSVAC is now more of a life-changing, career-starting organization.” “When we serve together, our hearts beat stronger,” said IP Alexander. Together, LCIF and dedicated Bed-Stuy Lions have created deep and lasting change in a beloved community.