President Joe Karam had been waiting to say these words to his members for a long time and on Saturday, he finally could.
For more than four decades, MVAC has been operating without a headquarters, storing its equipment inside members' homes, parking its ambulances on residential streets and in parking lots around the village, and meeting in the basement of the public library. But when Karam became president of the group in 2009, he promised the members that they would have a place to call home before he stepped down from his leadership post and together, they would start rebuilding the Corps, which has seen its numbers and its in-service hours decline in recent years.
A few years ago, after accepting that they would never be able to afford to purchase a building on their own, MVAC leaders approached the village board, which agreed "wholeheartedly" to help them out, MVAC's Bill Malone explained.
The village broke ground in November 2010 on its project to extend the bay adjacent to the village's Department of Works building that MVAC had been using in order to construct a headquarters for the organization. Malverne received a $60,000 grant from Nassau County and $150,000 from MVAC's fundraising efforts to put toward the roughly $800,000 facility. After several months of tense negotiations between MVAC's board members and village officials, the two parties agreed upon a lease and a contract, which in March 2012.
"It's been 44 years and now the [Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps] can say we have a home," Karam stated Saturday at the grand opening of MVAC's headquarters, located on Hempstead Avenue (next to ).
Several Malverne residents, Mayor Patricia Norris McDonald, and village trustees and staff turned out on July 14 for the building's dedication.
"We are just so blessed here in this village with the Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps to know that in minutes of calling them they are at your house," said McDonald, who explained that the volunteers have even responded to her home to assist her family members.
McDonald also thanked the residents who came out to the grand opening and the many others who have contributed to MVAC's fundraisers in the past.
"If it wasn't for your support monetarily-wise for the ambulance corps we wouldn't be here today," she added.
Also, in attendance for the ribbon-cutting was Nassau County Legis. Fran Becker, NYS Assemblyman Brian Curran, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Councilman James Darcy and Clerk Mark Bonilla, and a representative for County Executive Ed Mangano, who presented citations to MVAC from the New York State Assembly and Senate, the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County.
The officials all congratulated MVAC for finally having a headquarters, applauded the leadership of both the ambulance corps and the village of Malverne for negotiating the building's lease, and recognized the sacrifices made by all the volunteers in attendance.
"We're all here because of this building, but this also gives us a fantastic opportunity to recognize ... the service and the dedication and the sacrifices of all of these people," Curran said. "They get up in the middle of the night at 2 a.m. or get up from the dinner table during a holiday, just because their neighbor is sick."
Murray echoed Curran's sentiments, stating, "These men and women put their lives ... their families and their quality of life on the line throughout the year to answer the call for all of you. I can't think of a higher calling." She then told the volunteers," What a beautiful new home you have."
Darcy also pointed out how impressed he was by the number of women who volunteer with Malverne's ambulance corps, saying, "A lot of people think the fire or EMS services are a typically male domain; It's not. It's for anyone who cares about his or her community," he said, and encouraged others to get involved with this "great organization."
"When most of us are sleeping, you folks are working and doing the right thing," Bonilla said. "Hopefully, when I grow up I will be like you folks."
Becker, who helped secure the $60K grant from Nassau County, said that in his hometown of Lynbrook, residents affectionately refer to Malverne as "Lynbrook North" because the two close-knit communities share so much in common, particularly a concern for their neighbors. "To represent Malverne is such an honor ... We've got an amazing mayor, an amazing board, amazing people here. It's quintessential America and I just feel so blessed to be a part of it."
He then thanked MVAC's members, saying "we appreciate [what you do] more than you can ever know."
Now, that MVAC finally has a home, Karam said, "It's time to rebuild the Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps. A new beginning has begun."
Karam added, "We will not give up, we will bring our numbers up every year so we can get back to where we were many years ago ... It will take each and everyone one of us, new and old members, to bring MVAC back to be number one again."
Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an unveiling of the new sign outside MVAC's headquarters, residents, young and old, were invited to tour the ambulances and the new facility, which contains a garage, meeting room, kitchen, offices, bathrooms, showers, a laundry room and a lounge area. The buildings and its amenities will enable MVAC to recruit members who live outside the village as they will now have a place to stay while they are on-call.
Currently, MVAC as 40 members, but at Saturday's grand opening they were already recruiting new ones and spreading the word about its recently re-launched Youth Squad, a training program for 14- to 17-year-olds.
For more information, visit malvernevac.com