COMMUNITY SERVICE: Charles Silverstein is the captain-commanding officer with the Whitestone Community Volunteer Ambulance Service.
Established in 1947, Whitestone Ambulance is a 100 percent free service consisting of about 75 volunteers. It provides a free basic life support ambulance to all of Whitestone, with a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotline to respond to medical emergencies. The service also transports Whitestone residents to and from medical facilities in non-emergency situations, and allows them to borrow walkers, canes, wheelchairs and crutches at no charge.
Silverstein started volunteering with the volunteer ambulance service about eight years ago because he needed EMS experience before joining the city’s fire department.
“I wanted to be a fireman. I just didn’t leave,” he said.
He describes his work as mostly administrative. “[I am] kind of like the manager,” he said. Silverstein handles problems with the ambulances and other issues that may arise, and also conducts the service’s monthly meetings.
BACKGROUND: A Queens native, Silverstein, 30, currently lives in Whitestone. He is a firefighter with the FDNY, working in Brooklyn, and has been a member of that department for the past six years. He started as an emergency medical technician, then was upgraded to hazmat, followed by a paramedic, before becoming a fireman.
“It’s phenomenal,” Silverstein said, describing his job. “I’m like a regular guy with a bunch of regular guys and you get to be something else for a moment.”
FAVORITE MEMORY: One of his favorite memories with the ambulance service was Memorial Day 2012, which was a big celebration for the volunteers. They were commemorating the ambulance service’s 65th anniversary and had redone its building. Every year, the neighborhood has a parade for the holiday, and it “pretty much ended at our place,” he said. “It was the culmination of a lot of years of work.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The biggest challenges Silverstein has while volunteering are people-related. It can take work to find committed volunteers, who must go through a lot of training. Dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis can have its challenges as well, he said.