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North Salem Ambulance Corps Grew From Humble Beginnings

The North Salem Volunteer Ambulance Corps, founded in 1969, arose from humble beginnings. Pictured are its first two ambulances.
The North Salem Volunteer Ambulance Corps, founded in 1969, arose from humble beginnings. Pictured are its first two ambulances. Photo Credit: Ed & Eileen Haight

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. — Phyllis Swidorski was waiting for the Somers Ambulance Corps to come to the aid of an injured child back in 1969 when she decided North Salem really needed its own emergency services.

So together with a group of like-minded citizens, she sought donations and benefactors and was rewarded by the North Salem Lions Club, which funded the purchase of a secondhand ambulance. And the North Salem Ambulance Corps was born.

Charter member Pat Hitchcock recalls how difficult things were in the beginning. On one of her house-to-house fundraising campaigns, Hitchcock knocked at the Titicus Road home of "I Love Lucy" co-star Vivian Vance, who gladly made a contribution.

The enormous vehicle, large enough to accommodate four patients, was garaged in various places, including Haight's Orchards (now Hardscrabble Farms), a Front Street storefront (now Heritage Fuel) and the occasionally waterlogged basement of the Hygrade Market (now Gordon's DeliCafe).

From her current home in North Carolina, charter member Eileen Haight describes the early training endeavors.

"We went to Northern Westchester Hospital to learn CPR." At that time the medical staff was reluctant to teach a group of amateurs, "but today almost everybody knows it."

John Caralyus, a newcomer in town in 1971, suddenly found himself an active member thanks to a tenacious acquaintance who signed him up. Fundraising was a constant challenge, says Caralyus.

The annual Bloomerside Christmas party was a potluck affair with food provided by corps members. It was overseen by Sheila Petersen, founder of Friends of Karen. If a member didn't bring their assigned dish, he recalls, "she wouldn't let you in."

In 1973, the NSVAC managed to purchase its own land on Daniel Road, but it took nearly 30 years to be able to construct its own headquarters there.

Hundreds of residents can testify that the NSVAC building has become a safe haven in times of storm, outages and other emergencies. As always, the all-volunteer ambulance corps is ready to respond 24/7 to medical emergencies around town. New volunteers are always needed and gratefully greeted.

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