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Yorktown Volunteers Are Different, Diverse & Dedicated

YORKTOWN, N.Y.-- In 1974 when Rich Cariello first walked into the Yorktown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, things were different. There was a surplus of volunteers which left him on a waiting list—a stark difference from the lack of volunteers the corps has now.

“I wanted to do something to get involved,” Cariello said. “A friend recommended I join, and I thought it would be great to meet people, and help people.”

Now the captain of the YVAC, he said that while styles, ambulances, captains and emergencies may have changed since 1974, the reason behind joining has not.

“My first night, I knew nothing,” he said. “But all you need is the desire to help your neighbors.”

Cariello explained that that desire, becoming a certified EMT and volunteering a minimum of 24 hours a week are the only requirements to be a volunteer.

The thing that makes YVAC different from other volunteer ambulance corps, is also what's missing right now. The rules of the YVAC say there must always be a shift in the building, ready to respond to calls, but because of the shortage that isn’t always possible. It’s much different from the time Cariello walked into a waiting list.

“We used to have four people on every shift—now we have three, sometimes even two, especially during the day time, or less,” he said. “It’s a time commitment, but you know that if someone picks up the phone to call 911, to them it’s an emergency and we can be there right away.”

Cariello said the YVAC is made up of all different people from Yorktown, who all join for similar reasons. The oldest member of the corps is 84, the youngest 18.

“There’s great diversity here, people come from all different diverse backgrounds but they all do it because they love it,” Cariello said. “We have some people who are pre-med students or are nurses and they’re already inclined to medical things in the medical field, but honestly that’s the minority of people who volunteer. Most are not in the medical field, they just want to help and see this as a way to do that.”

Those faithful volunteers are working hard to make sure people in the community know more about them to get more volunteers, and to let the community know more about them.

“We are one of Yorktown’s best kept secrets. We’ll pick up people who have been living here 10, 20 years and they have no idea we’re here—and that’s something we’re changing. We want to be seen in the community more,” he said. “We want to get more volunteers, but also let people know that we’re here, and there are a lot of us here who care.”

Besides responding to calls, the YVAC also have a loan closet—full of things like walkers and crutches that people in the community can borrow, the hold blood banks, attend events as a precaution, and teach CPR classes.

Although they may be a secret, Cariello said those who do meet the YVAC first hand in an emergency often make the job worthwhile.

“The greatest thing is the thank you. I’ll be at the gas station or at an event around town and someone will come up to me and say ‘Thank you, you were at my house and helped me’ and I may or may not remember who they are—but it sticks with me that I really helped that person,” he said.

For that same reason, Cariello said there’s one call that stands out that he will never forget.

Several years ago, Cariello said he and the YVAC had gone on a call to help a man who was in extreme pain from a liver transplant. When the YVAC brought him to the local hospital, they were told he had to be transported to the hospital where he received the transplant in Manhattan.

“Well we don’t usually send one of our ambulances down to New York City, but I called up my captain and I told him, and he said okay do it. So we made the whole trip down to Manhattan with lights and sirens and everything. I just remember I was literally holding this man in my arms,” Cariello said.

It wasn’t just the ride down to the city he will always remember.

“Years later, I’m at my son’s sports game and this man comes up to me. I didn’t remember who he was right away but then he told me, that I had helped him and I remembered the story. And we’re there, and our sons are playing together on the field, and this man remembered that I had held him and taken him all the way to the hospital he needed in Manhattan. And to see him, years later, and know he was okay, it was must amazing. Absolutely amazing.”

Cariello said, these calls he’ll never forget and the friends and unity of the YVAC are not things he expected when he signed up several years ago.

“I look back at the last 37 years, and to be honest, I didn’t see myself becoming captain or doing all of this. I was just looking for tomorrow not decades down the road. But I still enjoy it just the same. I enjoy the feeling when you know someone needed your help and you were there,” he said.

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