American Ambulance donates two vehicles to Dominican Republic

New London — Two ambulances that have responded to hundreds of life-saving emergency calls throughout New London County are headed to the Dominican Republic.

The decommissioned Fords from American Ambulance are expected to ride out their final days with fire departments in Santo Domingo and Boca Chica, where they are sorely needed, said Hector Ventura Reyes, a former member of the Santa Domingo Fire Department – West.

Reyes, who now lives in Connecticut and serves as a liaison to his hometown fire department, was on hand Thursday to accept the donation at American Ambulance headquarters in Norwich.

The event, which included the hand off of a $1 bill of sale, was attended by representatives from the Dominican Association of New London, American Ambulance and local state Reps. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich; Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, and Chris Soto, D-New London.

Soto had championed the initiative in collaboration with the Dominican Association of New London, a year-old group whose president, Elvis Alvarez of New London, was raised in Boca Chica.

“When local ambulances come offline, they still have a lot of life left in them that can be put to good use in places like the Dominican Republic. We heard from many in our community who have family members on the island that there was a need. We investigated and found a solution," Soto said.

Soto said when he first conceived of the idea of seeking ambulances to donate, he quickly found American Ambulance as a willing partner.

Gregory Allard, vice president of American Ambulance Service Inc., said the company switched over its fleet from Fords to the Mercedes Benz “Sprinters” in 2009. The company held some of its decommissioned ambulances in storage. And while the vehicles do not meet standards for service here in the U.S., Allard said they are in good working order and have life left to give.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to see them get used,” Allard said. "For years, they’ve saved countless lives and helped thousands more. It’s great to know they will continue that legacy and that we are able to help make it happen."

Allard said the vehicles could even end up being used alongside other Connecticut ambulances that have been donated in the past to the Dominican Republic from Campion Ambulance Service in Waterbury.

Soto said the ambulances will be loaded on a ship to the Dominican Republic later this week after being detailed with new lettering. The one headed for Santa Domingo will join two others servicing an area with about 500,000 people, he said, a number that emphasizes the need there.

Alvarez said his group, while small now, is growing and is looking to connect with other community organizations to give back to both his home country and the city where he now lives.

Local initiatives have included a celebration of Dominican Independence and a special initiative for Three Kings Day that provided activities and toys to local children in need. The Dominican Association also helped bring personnel from the embassy of the Dominican Republic in New York to the New London area to help 70 families with things like birth certificates, passports and identification cards.

g.smith@theday.com

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