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Unsung Heroes: In Time of Need, TVAC is There in a Flash

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by Tom Pedulla – 

When Alaric Young was asked to describe the satisfaction he derives from being a member of the Tarrytown Volunteer Ambulance Corps (TVAC) for more than 25 years, he told of a woman who approached him in a local supermarket.

“You probably don’t remember me,” she began, “but my husband was having a heart attack, and he went into cardiac arrest and you were there and you helped him. He survived and he’s home.”

Her eyes filled with tears and her voice broke as she told Young, “Thank you.”

Then she hugged Young and each resumed shopping.

Young, 72, said of the chance meeting, “It happens to all of us at some point. It reminds me of why we do this. Probably nothing we have done in this world could be more significant, more worthwhile.”

Mary Kohrherr is another of more than 30 volunteers at TVAC, which has operated since 1967 and is the primary responder for medical emergencies in Tarrytown. Kohrherr, a social worker, found herself with some free time once her three children graduated from Sleepy Hollow High School and has driven the ambulance for the last three years.

“If you live in town,” she said, “it’s such a nice thing to do for your community.”

She donates her time every Wednesday with a shift that extends from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. and is typically accompanied by Mike Farley. Kohrherr said all of those involved enjoy a feeling of camaraderie.

“You have an opportunity to develop relationships with people you don’t even know,” she said. “It’s like family. You have each other’s backs.”

Since every minute is critical during a life-threatening emergency, all volunteers are expected to report to TVAC headquarters at 141 Franklin Street within five minutes of receiving a call.

“That beeper goes off, you jump out of bed and you are right there,” Kohrherr said. “I am out of the house in two minutes. You have to be out quick, quick, quick.”

TVAC must be prepared for every emergency imaginable. “The call can be one thing and it’s a completely different situation,” she said. “You never know what you are going to get.”

Korhherr praised Tarrytown’s police department for its swift response time, noting that police officers are often the first to arrive and are able to quickly assess the nature of the issue. “They are there as partners with us. They are excellent,” she said.

Volunteer Jill Swanson oversees TVAC’s day-to-day operations as captain. Pam Rifenburg, her mother, was in the field for 31 years and now serves as treasurer.

“Regardless of why a person needs help,” Swanson said, “it’s very gratifying to be there for your community.”

According to Swanson, TVAC responded 1,167 times last year. Although the number of calls has been rising, it has been an increasing challenge to find enough volunteers to meet the demand. Two full-time employees and eight per-diem workers are used to fill the void.

“It was our choice to always be available rather than remain an all-volunteer model,” Swanson said.

TVAC relies on donations from local businesses and individuals and is eligible to recover whatever insurance coverage is applicable. As urgent as funding is the need to add volunteers.

As Young and others can attest, a hug can mean infinitely more than money.

The Hudson Independent presents “Unsung Heroes,” a series of articles profiling those who provide extraordinary service to the communities in the readership area. If you wish to suggest someone or some organization for this feature, please email us at editor@thehudsonindependent.com with a brief description of that person or group’s background.

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