The year was 1954. A dedicated group of individuals had a vision "... to save human life, relieve suffering of the injured, promote safety in all its branches and provide ambulance service for those in need, principally in the Borough of Madison, New Jersey". They were affectionately known as "THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN", 7 residents of Madison who were up until that point, volunteers with the American Red Cross, which had been providing ambulance service through the American Red Cross Motor corps since 1942 to the Borough of Madison. These 7 "magnificent" individuals formed what is known as, The Madison Volunteer Ambulance Corps, a 501 (C) (3) corporation, incorporated in the State of New Jersey, not for pecuniary profit.
The Corps was officially founded on July 15, 1954. The founding members were led by Joseph and Adele Corbett. Joe became MVAC's first president that year. The first ambulance used was a 1949 Packard which was given by the Red Cross. The Corps operated out of the Hartley Dodge Building, located on Kings Road in Madison. The ambulance was kept in a single bay garage below the Madison Fire Truck garage, the Madison Fire Department also being housed in the same building. The large hose drying room was then used as the Ready Room for members of the ambulance corps.
There was no 911 service during this period of time and the dispatching of the ambulance service was initially through a local telephone answering service operated by Mrs. Anna Drake, also a Madison citizen. Calls for service would actually be made directly to the answering service. At that point, Mrs. Drake would call each member on duty to dispatch them to the scene of the call for help.
It was in 1960 that the decision was made by the Corps to begin the search for a new facility of its own. The Corps began fund raising efforts with the hope of raising enough to complete the construction of a building and a move into the structure by 1963. The membership had mutually decided that only volunteer labor would be used during construction, which also included architectural services. All of the funds that would be raised for this new construction would ONLY be used to purchase the land the building materials.
As it would turn out, a tract of land located at 29 Prospect Street was available. This land was owned by Mrs. Geraldine Dodge a wealthy heiress and citizen of Madison NJ, and it was donated to the Corps (in actuality, it was sold for $1.00). The generous offer by Mrs. Dodge allowed all the funds that were raised to go directly to the purchase of building materials.
There were many hands involved in the construction of this building, including corps members at the time. Most of the help were earnest residents of Madison, but many non-residents also helped and came from surrounding areas, such as Chatham and Morristown but also from areas such as Orange, North Plainfield, Mt Tabor and Elizabeth.
In the end, well over 250 people contributed to the construction of the current facility on Prospect Street, (they are graciously listed in the link below). Finally, on May 30, 1963, the Madison Volunteer Ambulance Corps new 7,500 square foot building was officially dedicated, and with NO mortgage!
Today, the Madison Volunteer Ambulance Corps is proud to continue the vision of the Corbett’s and the “Magnificent 7”, to help the citizens and visitors of Madison in their time of need. Many dedicated volunteers have faithfully served with this organization, and today we have over 50 EMT’s ready to respond in a moment’s notice. Our building at 29 Prospect Street still serves as our headquarters and is about to go through some much needed renovations. We currently have 3 ambulances, or as some would call “Rigs” with modern day medical equipment and supplies, much advanced over that first 1949 Packard which help served our community many years ago. We still have a few members serving, who were part of the original team of volunteers, in our squad who have well over 100 years of experience combined! In 2013, we answered our 50,000th call and on average, respond to over 1,000 calls annually.
Years ago, the Madison Volunteer Ambulance corps became an indispensable community service to which many citizens owe their lives. New members join as older members retire. We strive to perfect care provided to those in need, perfect our first aid skills exercise common sense, and further the cause of life saving and safety to the best of our ability. Our goal for the future is to continue the long standing vision of those 7 dedicated citizens of Madison and provide the best help care possible to our community.