Since 1974 – CAVAC Still Going Strong
In 1973 the last of the funeral homes which provided ambulance service* to the Cazenovia community announced that this service would be terminated*. A committee chaired by Ed Ammann and assisted by Dr. Bob Schramm was organized to create a volunteer ambulance service*. Many interested community residents were involved and in a relatively short period of time the Cazenovia Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps (CAVAC) was formed*. The first Executive Committee consisted of Jim Gilmore, President, Peggy Laidman, Vice-president, Avanelle Rose, Secretary, Bob Stinson,Treasurer, and Don Harrison, Chief of Operations.
The scramble then started to raise funds to purchase ambulances*; to produce organization by-laws; and to train crews and dispatchers*. Ann Altmeyer and Peggy Laidman were both new EMTs and first-aid instructors with as many as 45 students at a time*. Locals signed up to help and dispatchers were trained. CAVAC had 232 Charter members (those who volunteered before April 15, 1974) (listed here).
Renovation of CAVAC’s first home, the Carriage House on Forman Street, involved removal of box stalls and tack rooms to create garage space for the ambulance, crew rooms, lavatories, and a dispatcher office*. The organization raised $55,000 for renovations to the Carriage House (also known as Carpenter’s Barn), which remained the property of the Village of Cazenovia. CAVAC II, a second-hand van-type vehicle purchased for $6,000, was driven to headquarters by Jim Gilmore, Don Harrison, and George Chapman on Christmas Eve 1973. It was to be the primary emergency vehicle while a new rig was being built to CAVAC specifications.
Even the best of plans face challenges and CAVAC was finally scheduled for its first day of service on Thursday, February 28, 1974. But CAVAC’s first call was the night before when CAVAC II headed to a snowmobile accident in Erieville staffed by members readying for the next day’s opening. The inaugural crew on opening day was driver Bev Thorp, attendant Bryan Ramsay, and crew captain Don Harrison, and the dispatcher was Barb Sparks.
I arrived in May and the squad was at full capacity. In the early months there were no radios; CAVAC personnel used land-line telephones when arriving at the scene, later to tell the dispatcher the destination hospital, and finally to alert the hospital. Radios were introduced in July. More advanced communications came in 1998 with the 911 emergency system.
CAVAC handled more than 300 calls in 1974 rising to over 750 in 2008. In 2009, CAVAC was an organization of 125 volunteer drivers, EMTs, and dispatchers, and 17 paid paramedics. There were still 10 Charter Members still giving of their time at CAVAC at the start of 2010.
CAVAC has conducted three major fundraising campaigns in its history and has budgeted to replace ambulances about every 5 years. The CAVAC arts and crafts show at Lorenzo State Historic Site, first held in 1984, was a longstanding fundraising activity which was an integral part of the community’s July 4th holiday festivities. The arts and crafts fair was discontinued after 2019 due to several years of extreme weather and the Covid pandemic.
At CAVAC’s request in 2004, the Town Boards of Nelson, Fenner, Pompey and Cazenovia each passed resolutions resulting in the creation of the CAVAC Ambulance District. The tax funds collected from the District help CAVAC provide 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week Advanced Life Support (ALS) service. The CAVAC Ambulance District funds the salaries of our part-time ALS paramedics and some of their supplies. The remainder of our budget comes from insurance billing and donations.
Most exciting in recent years was the September 2009 purchase of two new ambulances, followed quickly in January 2010 by completion of the new CAVAC headquarters (or ‘base’) on upper Nelson Street on land made available by the Lucas family. Our beautiful and historic carriage house needed too many very expensive repairs to continue using it as headquarters. Funds had been put aside for several years for the new vehicles and building purchases, which were not funded by tax monies.
In 2010, mostly from the new ambulance station, CAVAC handled 881 calls. As of 2023 we are responding to over 1000 calls each year, served by a volunteer corps of over 10 EMTs, 30 drivers, and 30 crew coordinators (formerly dispatchers). CAVAC normally employs about 10 part-time paramedics, supplemented for backup for many years by one volunteer paramedic, Eric Byers.
– Willie Gilmore and Peggy Laidman
CAVAC History Slideshow
(click below to advance)