Avon Ambulance

60 Years of Ambulance Service Reflections

By: Edward “Ted” Coyne

Written December 2015
     During my first year in Avon Rotary which was 1955, the president, Gene Todd realized the need for a ambulance service in Avon. He purchased the old hearse from Stephenson Funeral Home and had it painted white with a red cross painted on the door.  Rotary tried to give it to both fire departments and the American Legion and the V.F.W. or any other group that would start an ambulance service in Avon. After several weeks of negotiations it was evident that no one would take it.  The funeral home announced that it was no longer going to provide ambulance service in Avon. They informed us at a Rotary meeting that no one would take the ambulance that we purchased. After a few minutes deliberation with George Cullinan we thought we couldn’t do a much worse job than nobody and we offered to give it a shot if Rotary wanted us to. They said, go for it and we were off and running.
     Caledonia was the only other town for miles around or in Livingston County that had an ambulance. We went to them for assistance in getting started. They were very helpful and we talked to a lead ambulance guy who agreed to hold a Red Cross first aid course in Avon which turned out to be totally slanted toward running an ambulance service.  Our first call was to the Zion Church. Ira Brown and I took that call. Our response time was a little slow because we had to blow up a flat tire first. We successfully transported the man to Strong hospital and we were off and running.  After many calls that year we decided that, yes, we could do it but we needed a better vehicle.
     Ambulance service in those days was very primitive and mostly just transportation. We were mostly called by Avon’s three doctors and the police department. No one was transported without the consent of a doctor and many times they might ride to the hospital with the patient. Those day’s are gone forever.  
     Caledonia bought a newer ambulance and offered us their old Cadillac which was better than the old one we had. They sold it to us for $235.00 We only had about $100.00 in our account but the bank (Hoyt Mason) said they would lend us the other $135.00 if I would sign the note for it. Well we got it and the prestige and morale of the Avon Rotary Ambulance Service went up a bit. We were gaining volunteer drivers and attendants slowly but surely.
     After three or four years it became evident that an ambulance service was a necessity and we needed a new ambulance to take the place of Caledonia’s old Cadillac that was pretty well shot by this time.  We needed about $5,000.00 which of course we didn’t have. Rotary Club and our lawyer decided we needed to be organized and incorporated and insured with a board of directors and bi-laws, etc.  I can’t remember how we got this all in place but Rotary Club and Lion’s Club came up with $2,000.00 each. The two fire departments and the Legion and V.F.W each gave $250.00. At that time we formed the Avon Rotary Lions Ambulance Service with three people from Rotary and three from Lions forming the board of directors. Bob Clark got us a new Oldsmobile ambulance at cost from Clark Chevrolet.
     In the early years there was always a problem finding a garage to keep it in and keep it warm especially in the winter time. It was kept in the Cullinan garage which was in back of what is now Community Bank as well as Brown’s garage on East Main Street. This worked pretty good but as we gained more equipment and supplies, security became a problem. Gene Todd leased us some land on South Avenue next to the road to the parking lot behind the stores. We decided to build our own ambulance building on South Avenue, and with the help of Frank Csapo and Sterling Homex, the lumber showed up. The water, sewer and concrete floor went in at very little cost. It all went together with vo-unteers from Rotary and Lions clubs and many others.
     This building served us well for many years. In the late 1970’s it became evident that we needed two ambulances. We had two serious accidents that put ours out of service for several weeks. We had to borrow and rent ambulances until repairs were made to ours.  The Village Board was designing a new fire house and village office. We were fortunate enough to get two large bays and a small office into the design for the building. The Town Board donated $30,000.00 to help the village pay for the ambulance addition. This was built in 1980 just in time to accommodate the new big box vehicles that were the best type to have for rural ambulance services. This was our home for thirty years.
     Many changes were taking place in ambulance service. Training of medical emergency technicians, driver training and basic training of everybody involved became more and more necessary to meet county and state ambulance regulations.  Avon had the first E.M.T.’s in Livingston County. More and more training was required and volunteers were becoming hard-er to find and response to calls for help were being delayed or not answered. Money from health insurance programs was becoming available. We started paying certified E.M.T’s and paramedics' a stipend in order to fill our duty schedule. We began competing for help from other towns which meant that we needed over night faculties, a crew area to wait for calls and a kitchen area, etc.
     Some of our Board of Directors began looking at our nearby ambulance facilities. Honeoye Falls spent two million on theirs. Lima was 960 thousand and many fire departments were adding much better ambulance service areas to their fire houses all at tax payer expense. We discovered that we were competing for medical personnel against these million dollar facilities.
     We were fortunate that we were able to get paid by insurance companies a few years early because of our non taxpayer fund-ed status. We had a reserve fund to buy new ambulances and equipment and to pay E.M.T.’s and Paramedics, but we lacked 3/4 of a million dollars of being able to build a new facility similar to our neighboring ambulance services. We knew that Rotary and Lions Clubs would never be able to come up with that much money.
     The good Lord was looking after us the day that someone called us and said that there was a 5,000 square foot building for sale that was an abandoned church that had been for sale for two years. They were going to sell it at a reasonable price. Upon inspection it had three acres of land with a large parking lot, a 50’x 50’ church sanctuary and 50’ x 50’ kitchen, bedroom with tub and shower, men’s room, ladies room, laundry room—all extremely well built with electric heat and well insulated. We purchased it for $110,000.00 dollars and appropriated about $60,000.00 to re-move the alter, carpets and add three overhead doors in the west end of the room. We made room for 2 big box ambulances, a fly car, oxygen tanks, and a floor drain for washing vehicles. Volunteers were a huge help in this whole project. We decided electric heat was not the way to go and we put in two gas furnaces and air conditioning for the area where the officers and crew quarters are located.
     This building has been a great help in being able to perform all the steps necessary to have an ambulance service with highly trained people who are providing excellent response times from the first 911 call until contact with the patient.
     The Avon Rotary Lions Ambulance service is managed by a volunteer Board of Directors who receive no compensation. We also have local people who mow the grass every week and plow the snow in the winter. During 2015 10-12 local people put a 6,000 square foot roof on the building saving thousands of dollars.
     Most medical personnel are paid or partially paid for their hours on the job. Ambulance and medical supplies are extremely expensive. Insurance and vehicle cost and maintenance is a big factor. The cost of operations in 1955 was probably $200-$300 per year. The cost for 2015 will be well over $350,000.00 I believe that we are the only two service clubs in the United States that operate an ambulance service.
     I am very proud to have been able to take an active part in this service for the entire 60 years I have been in Avon Rotary