In 1952 a group of Montclair residents, concerned for the safety and wellbeing of their friends and neighbors, joined together to form the Montclair Ambulance Unit. Over sixty years later, the dedication to the residents of Montclair stands as strong as it did when the first meeting was gaveled into session at 9 o'clock in the evening, on December 9, 1952 at the Montclair Municipal Building.
In the early part of the 20th century, EMS was still in its infancy. Many areas were serviced by the local funeral home or hospital for emergency needs and it wasn't much more than a ride to the hospital. Ambulance attendants with little or no formal training responded to accidents and injuries and when requested by a doctor to transport patients to the hospital. In Montclair and the surrounding area, this was handled by Mountainside Hospital.
As the populations began to increase towns across the country began to establish their own ambulance services and in December of 1952 the first meeting of the Montclair Ambulance Unit was gaveled into session by newly appointed chairman Lawrence W. Sanders. This was six months before the first request for service was answered. Alongside Saunders at this first meeting were fellow Trustees Robert Cluthe, Donald Hobart, Henry Colleary, Charles Lowry, Fred Scharfenberg, B. Vincent Harrison and Duane Minard, Jr.
The first Officers of the Montclair Ambulance Unit were also elected that night with Donald Miller elected as Vice-President, Donald Hobart as Secretary and Fred Scharfenberg as Treasurer. Chairman Sanders was elevated to President of the new organization.
In the six months following this first meeting Theodore MacLachlan was appointed Captain, the MAU Trustees began to establish by-laws for the organization, open a bank account and entered into a contract for an new Cadillac Ambulance to be built by Superior Coaches of Lima, OH. The cost.....$10,043.30!
Montclair Ambulance Unit officially began operations on June 20, 1953 with its first assignment.....a discharge from Montclair Community Hospital.
In March of 1955 the Trustees of Montclair Ambulance Unit decided that MAU needed its own home that could accommodate the Active membership, house the ambulance and act as a base of operations. The search for a location would last almost six months and included locations on Orange Road, St. Luke's Place and Portland Place.
In August of 1955 the Trustees entered into negotiations for a location at 69 Portland Place. The new location was advantageous as it was just off Valley Road and one block removed from Bloomfield Avenue.
In January of 1956, Gabriel Aiello signed over the deed to the property at 69 Portland Place to give MAU its first home. Up to that point MAU had been operating out of the Red Cross building on Park Street and the ambulance was stored at the Arthur K. Brown Funeral Home. The cost of the building was $16,000.
With a new home on the horizon Captain MacLachlan reported to the Trustees that the Active members had responded to 1460 requests for service since MAU's inception and that there were enough members to staff the ambulance "around the clock" but there was still active recruitment for more weekday volunteers to supplement the 14 that were dedicated to this time.
By 1958, MAU had responded to 2,620 requests for service and had an Active membership of fifty-seven men and six women with additional administrative volunteers from the Junior League who worked in the office and initiated the "phone tree" when a request for the ambulance was made.
It was also at this time when MAU's first president, Lawrence Sanders, submitted his resignation from the Presidency stating "The Unit and Trustees are made up of many persons of equal standings and contributing equal services. All have the right to be its President. I submit my resignation with the full knowledge that the new President will carry on our work with enthusiasm and devotion."
As early as 1958, with changes in family structure and economics, Captain MacLachlan reported to the Trustees that there was a "scarcity of manpower for day time operations....Nighttime operations were adequately covered and at times excessively covered."
In November of 1962, Captain MacLachlan, the first and only MAU Captain up to this time, was preparing to retire from his position as a fireman with the Montclair Fire Department and was moving on to other endeavors. He advised President Charles Lowry of his intentions to resign his position as Captain. This was a serious blow to day time operations as Captain MacLachlan responded to over 80% of the calls since MAU began service in 1953.
The Trustees weighed various options including suspending day time operations. After long discussion and debate the trustees decided to create MAU's first paid position, Executive Director. With a salary offer of $6,000 a year Captain MacLachlan was offered and respectfully declined the position.
In December of 1962, after a search that encompassed Civil Defense agencies, the Red Cross and the employment section of the U.S. Army and Navy, the Trustees contracted John Rankin, on the recommendation of Past Captain MacLachlan and support of the Active members, to be the first paid employee of MAU. While not an operational role, Mr. Rankin was charged with the day-to-day business operations of MAU and responsible to the Trustees. A new Captain, R. Stan Berry, was elected by the Active members to run the Operations of MAU.
Up to 1964, the majority of MAU's requests for service were mainly from doctors needing to get a patient to the office or hospital or from one of the three Montclair hospitals (Mountainside, Community or St. Vincent's) who needed a patient taken home or to another hospital. With MAU firmly established in the community Montclair Police were now sending emergency requests directly to MAU. The Trustees decided that the ambulance was becoming a necessity for Montclair.
In June of 1964, Director Rankin had submitted his resignation and the search began for a new Executive Director. The search once again included the Employment Bureaus of the Armed Services and was expanded to include the local medical schools. The Active membership also played a role in the selection process interviewing many promising candidates. As a result of the search, a retired Montclair police officer, Frederick "Bud" Kupper was named the new Executive Director of Montclair Ambulance Unit.
Operating out of the Portland Place Headquarters, Director Kupper oversaw many ups and downs for MAU but as MAU President Donald Hobart stated in his May 1970 report to the Trustees, "The Board and the Town are deeply in debt to our Executive Director, Bud Kupper. He has been with us since December of 1964 and his work and the results are well known."
1970 was yet another milestone year for MAU. It had been 15 years since MAU moved into its own home on Portland Place and it was now time to move on. Under the direction of President Hobart, Trustee Charles Lowry and a Building Committee comprised of Active Members a search began for a new location for MAU's Headquarters. After visiting several town owned sites, none of which was acceptable, the Trustees began to negotiate for the purchase of 1 Mountainview Place. The location, later addressed as 86 Valley Road, would be purchased for approximately $215,000 and would become the new home of Montclair Ambulance Unit for the next 35 years.
Since the first Trustee Meeting on December 9, 1952, Montclair Ambulance Unit has responded to over 185,000 requests for service and has been able to weather the storms created by a decline in volunteerism, changes in the economy, political and social changes, mandated training for staff and an ever changing world.
In 2005, MAU sold the building on Valley Road and moved into the Walnut Street Firehouse, which was renovated and provided at a nominal rate by the Township of Montclair. The proceeds from the sale helped finance operations, the maintenance of the ambulance fleet, the cost of equipment, and a staff of highly trained EMTs. From a high of eighty volunteers in the seventies, to a low of three currently, MAU now has an around the clock, career staff who's training covers the entire range of EMS and that maintains that volunteer attitude that is cherished.
In 2010 the Unit went back to its original name Montclair Ambulance Unit (dropping the "Volunteer", even though they are still referred to as MVAU) and established a new operational model consistent with other public safety entities by adding a Chief and Deputy Chief of Operations, a full time Lieutenant, a full time Sergeant, Fleet Manager, Special Operations Coordinator and a Director of Development (who oversees MAU fundraising efforts). This new model has proven to be very effective and marked an overall improvement of both day to day and long term operations.
In addition to responding to medical emergencies and transportations MAU has always responded to fires in Montclair in support of Montclair Fire Department, has been available for mutual aid to surrounding towns and, after the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, provided assistance in New York City.
In 2012 the Unit became an New Jersey EMS Task Force agency allowing it to be requested to any declared emergency throughout New Jersey or across state lines should the need arise. MAU Special Operations responded in support of EMS operations in Brick, NJ and Long Island, NY following Superstorm Sandy, was part of the Essex County response plan for the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in 2013 and the Papal Visit of Pope Francis in 2015.
Over the years MAU has not only improved and expanded services but surpassed expectations. MAU also has developed EMS and community oriented training programs through the Community Outreach Educational Programs, provides disaster preparedness assistance with Be Ready. Montclair and assists surrounding municipalities when requested.
Currently MAU operates a fleet of four Basic Life Support Ambulances licensed by the New Jersey Department of Health and two support vehicles including a supervisor/first response vehicle and, through funding provided by the Department of Homeland Security, a Special Operations vehicle. MAU also plays host to the Essex Staging Area Management Trailer and ASAP Off Road Ambulance funded by the NJ EMS Task Force.
While the times may have changed, Montclair Ambulance Unit continues to provide professional, responsive, patient-first care and dedicated to being a community based, industry leading, emergency medical service organization.
Just the facts.......