Saving lives today. . . . building lives for tomorrow.

First on the Scene

The Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BSVAC), the nation’s first minority-run volunteer ambulance corps, was founded in 1988 by two EMS workers, Captain James "Rocky" Robinson and Specialist Joe Perez.  The creation of BSVAC was their response to the crisis in emergency medical service that afflicts New York’s minority communities. 

As in other minority communities, many residents of Bed-Stuy do not have health insurance.  As a result, they are less likely to visit the doctor’s office for routine care or for treatment in the early stages of disease.  At the same time, African-American men and women suffer disproportionately from high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes.  These factors lead to a disproportionate number of emergency room visits  --  75% of all emergency medical calls in New York City come from minority neighborhoods.

In continuous operation since 1988, BSVAC is the busiest volunteer ambulance service for its size in the nation, answering over 100 calls per month.

Response Times Plument

When BSVAC first began operations, the response time in Bed-Stuy for city ambulances averaged about 30 minutes.  BSVAC established a record-breaking ambulance service that currently responds to over 100 emergency calls a month with an average response time of less than 4 minutes. BSVAC also established a neighborhood first aid center and has worked to promote preventive health care in the community.  BSVAC has lost count of the number of lives it has saved.

Training the Community

In addition to medical services, BSVAC has worked tirelessly to train the Bed-Stuy community.  To date, over two thousand local residents have been trained through BSVAC as First Responders who can save lives in emergencies.  BSVAC has also developed a remarkable Youth Corps program that provides CPR, first aid and basic emergency medical training to teens and young adults, preparing them for full-time employment in emergency medicine.  A program for younger children, called the Trauma Troopers, has also been developed by BSVAC; it provides CPR and first aid training.  In addition to medical training, these programs provide positive role models and social activities. To date, hundreds of young people have completed the program; almost 100 of the graduates have become EMTs or have otherwise pursued careers in medicine as nurse, physician’s assistant, or doctor.

While based in Bed-Stuy, BSVAC has reached out to other minority communities, from Harlem to LA, providing emergency medical training and assistance in setting up programs.  Closer to home, BSVAC responded to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993; it also responded to the Queens air disaster and to the World Trade Center on 9/11, when BSVAC vollies saved a firefighter’s life.


For its remarkable accomplishments and ongoing efforts, BSVAC has received numerous honors, including:  Robin Hood Foundation Hero of the Year Award, New York City Hero Award, American Institute for Public Service Jefferson Award, Points of Light Award (awarded by President George Bush), and Maxwell House Hero Search Award.

BSVAC is a New York not-for-profit organization that is exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  All donations to BSVAC are tax-deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.

Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps
727 Greene Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11221
(718) 453-4617

BSVAC is also known as "Save a Life Rescue Corps."

click on photos below to see larger versions
Rocky Robinson

Rocky Robinson, Co-Founder
and Executive Director

The Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BSVAC), the nation’s first minority-run volunteer ambulance corps, was founded in 1988 by two EMS workers, Captain James "Rocky" Robinson and Specialist Joe Perez.  BSVAC has greatly improved emergency care in the Bed-Stuy community and trained countless youngsters and adults in life-saving skills.

Ayeronde "Ron" Davis
Yvonne Frederick, new EMT

Roll call
Roll call

Volunteers in front of ambulance