By Rich Bockmann
Residents of Little Neck and Douglaston may not even know it exists, but a little-known gem ï»¿in their neighborhood is getting a shiny new polish.
“We’re made up of nurses, teachers, principals, mechanics … basically your neighbors,” said Louis Calderon, who as the new president of the Little Neck-Douglaston Community Ambulance Corps is in the process of modernizing the all-volunteer group that has served the community since 1958.
When Calderon took over the position in January, he decided his first order of business would be to strengthen the volunteer corps. A new website, an online scheduling system, new uniforms and renovations to the headquarters, at 42-18 Marathon Pkwy. in Little Neck, have already helped to attract six new members.
The corps, made up of some 35 active, certified EMTs and drivers and about 15 auxiliary members, provides emergency medical transportation as well as wheelchairs, walkers, canes and commodes for free to a community somewhat underserved.
Unlike Bayside or Glen Oaks, Little Neck and Douglaston have no 911-dispatched ambulance services, Calderon said. Residents from the community may have to wait, depending on availability, for an ambulance to come from as far away as Flushing or Queens Village.
“Our average response time is three to four minutes. That’s fantastic,” said Calderon.
Volunteers provide 24-hour coverage from Friday evening through Sunday and from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. during the week. Calderon said the rest of the time is hard to fill consistently, but he hopes the changes will help to grow membership and fill those gaps.
“This week we’ve got three days covered. Next week we’ve got all five days, but the following week we’ve only got one. We’re trying to get that 24-hour coverage,” he said.
The corps provides free training for prospective members and sponsors them for New York State EMT certification.
Calderon said the corps used to receive city and state funding, but since that has dried up, they have had to rely more heavily on their biannual fund drives. On May 21, during National EMS Week, the corps will host an EMS celebration day and open house at its headquarters on Marathon Parkway where there will be equipment demonstrations, safety education, food and prizes.
“I want to be more active in the community,” said Calderon.
For more information, visit lndamb.org or call 718-229-0400, which is also the emergency hotline.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.