Who We Are
Our Mission
“To provide free non-emergency transportation for ambulatory and wheelchair passengers from their places of residence to and from medical facilities throughout Indian River County.”

Door-to-door service is available to anyone in the county simply by calling in advance and making a reservation.  Passengers may be ambulatory or in a wheelchair.  The Squad does not transport emergency cases.

The Squad is funded solely by donations, and no fee is charged for any transportation. 
All drivers are volunteers.

Our Status
The Indian River County Volunteer Ambulance Squad, Inc. is a non-profit corporation registered in accordance with U.S. federal law 501(c)(3).

The Squad receives no agency or government support for its projects or operating expenses.  Its sole source of income is private donations.

Our History
Prior to its formation in 1966, all emergency ambulance services in Indian River County were provided by local funeral homes. The need arose for a true ambulance service or "squad" when local funeral homes began to suspend their response to emergency calls.

Bill Turner, then head of local radio station WTTB, formed a committee composed of English teacher Jim Montgomery, attorney B.T. Cooksey, Joe Egan, School Superintendent William McClure, Lee Nuzie, Dr. Frank Wilson, Robert Chesbrough, and Richard Todd.  The group held its first meeting in March of 1966.  They quickly raised over 100 volunteers and the Squad made its first official run on May 1, 1966. Then Vero Beach Mayor Fred Prestin declared the week of October 30 through November 5, 1966 as Indian River County Volunteer Ambulance Squad week and delivered a verbal commendation to the over 100 volunteers.

The ambulance squad was first housed in its main headquarters on 17th Ave. just north of the Vero Beach Senior High School adjacent to the old Indian River County Jail. The squad was manned full-time exclusively by volunteers and was open to men and women age 16 and over. When the present location, then known as the "Beach station" was constructed, it was manned during the day shifts and weekends depending on availability of volunteer crews.

From 1966 until 1989 the squad provided basic life support (BLS) care and transport to residents of Indian River County. Originally service was provided in the old-style Cadillac ambulances similar in design to funeral home hearses with a driver and a trained first aider. With the advent of the emergency medical technician programs (EMT) in the early 1970s, an ambulance “unit crew” consisted of at least 3 individuals, an EMT with more than 130 hours of classroom training, a First Aider who had passed all necessary BLS training courses and a driver also trained in First Aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and ambulance driving. Each three units were also supported by a volunteer dispatcher who served as the communication link with patients, hospitals, and other local authorities.  Units were organized into four 6-hour shifts in order to provide the community with full 24-hour a day service.

In April 1984, the Sebastian Volunteer Ambulance Squad consolidated with the IRCVAS in an effort to improve response times and coverage in the north county.

In the 1970s and 80s, the squad was one of the most popular and respected organizations in the county. Business men and women, retirees and students alike volunteered their money and time to make sure that the county was covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a service that provided basic life support. For many of its formative years, the largest fundraiser for the squad was also the largest golf tournament in Indian River County. The annual Indian River County volunteer ambulance squad tournament was annually run by local resident Ace Cappelen.

In 1989, Indian River County finally integrated advanced life support (ALS) into the county through the use of paramedics and ultimately combined fire and EMS services into the Indian River County Fire Rescue Division.  Thus the need for volunteer emergency transportation services was eliminated.

However, the Volunteer Ambulance Squad still continues its tradition of public service by providing non-emergency transportation to medical visits for Indian River County residents.  All drivers are volunteers. In a typical year the Squad completes over 13,000 trips and covers over 140,000 miles transporting residents to and from their medical visits.

from left to right:
Woodruff Sutton, James Manor, Steve Essig, Robert Wilhide, Joel Chernin, Paul Amaru, Bruce Albro

Our Board Of Directors
The Squad is managed by a 7 person board of directors.  The current board consists of:

Woody Sutton - President and Volunteer Driver
Woodruff F. (Woody) Sutton was born and raised in Northern New Jersey. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969, Woody began what became a 37 year career in the railroad industry working primarily for the Missouri Pacific and, after merger, with the Union Pacific. Increasing levels of responsibility led to multiple operating department positions in Memphis, St. Louis, Chester, Illinois, Kansas City, and Omaha.

Retiring in 2006, Woody and his wife Jennifer moved to Vero Beach. The have two children, son David who resides in Omaha and daughter Leslie Joanne who is located in Fremont, California. An active volunteer, Woody has held various leadership positions at both the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the Emerson Center. He has driven for the Volunteer Ambulance Squad since 2016.

Joel Chernin - Vice President and Volunteer Driver
Born in Ohio, Joel moved with his family to Miami in 1948.  Joel was a former Law Enforcement officer in Palm Beach County, was in Building Materials sales and management from Miami to Jacksonville for 40 years, presently retired and has been an Indian River County resident for the last 25 years, 5 of those in Vero Beach.  Married to Mable for 48 years and they have 3 daughters, 8 granddaughters and 1 great granddaughter.  Joel has been a driver for IRCVAS for 5 years.

Paul Amaru - Secretary and Volunteer Driver
Paul and his wife, Carol, came to Vero Beach in 2000 from northern New Jersey. A career high school educator, Paul taught English and Journalism and served as Librarian in the Hackensack, New Jersey school system. During his time in Vero Beach, Paul has been active in Theater guild, not only as an actor, but as both a member and President of their Board. Also, an active volunteer at the Emerson Center, Paul was most often seen on their stage introducing the ongoing Florida Humanities Series presentations.

Paul has been driving for IRCVAS since 2017 and joined the Board in 2020. He now serves as the Secretary. He and Carol have a daughter who resides in Wales, UK.

Bruce Albro - Treasurer and Volunteer Driver
Bruce is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a degree in Economics. He holds a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkley which he attended as a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation fellow. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst.

He served as a Naval Communications Officer, with service in the South China Sea during the Vietnam war and then as a staff officer on an embarked Flag staff out of Norfolk, VA. He spent 30 years in Connecticut as an investment officer at CIGNA Investment Management CO, retiring as a Senior Managing Director with chief investment responsibilities for the company’s domestic investment assets. He then worked as a portfolio strategist for New England Asset Management Co. He was a long-serving Director of Ohio Mutual Insurance Group and also served as a Director of Darwin Professional Underwriters, Inc. He and his wife Lee have both been Squad drivers for the past ten years. They have two grown sons and five grandchildren.

James C. Manor - Director and Volunteer Driver
Jim hails from Salem, New Hampshire and spent most of his life in New England. His career has spanned many years within various occupations. He considered a career as an undertaker but, ultimately, chose employment in the automotive field where he managed a chain of auto parts stores. After being successful in this field, he changed course and sold radio advertising for WLLH in Massachusetts. Realizing the automotive field was his calling, he became Sales Manager for OE Place Tool, a privately held automotive tools and equipment warehouse covering all of New England and New York.

After 26 years accompanied by too many snowstorms, Jim retired and moved with his wife to Vero Beach. In addition to volunteering at IRCVAS, Jim was recently named chairman of the CCIRH Auxiliary Emergency Department. Jim has two children from his first marriage and is a proud grandfather of five boys.

Steve Essig - Director and Volunteer Driver
Steve grew up in a farming community in central Illinois. After graduation from high school he enlisted in the Army. He served 1 1/2 years in the States and 1 1/2 years in Stuttgart, Germany. He then enrolled at Northern Illinois University and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Political Science and a minor in Psychology. He started with the Kroger Company as a meat buyer in Cincinnati, Ohio. He worked there for 3 years and was transferred to Atlanta, GA to help create a new division. He has been married to Lynne for 53 years. They have one adult son and two granddaughters. Steve and Lynne are members of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Vero Beach. He has been a volunteer since 2015.

Bob Wilhide- Director and Volunteer Driver
Bob and his wife Judy moved to Vero Beach in 2002 from North Carolina. A career employee of the Quaker Oats Company in Chicago, IL, Bob retired in 1998 after 32 years of service. The last position held was Vice President of Sales for 12 years at the Corporate Headquarters in Chicago, IL. Bob spent 10 years with Grand Union Supermarkets and ultimately was Store Manager of the Rockville, MD store. A career salesman, Bob held numerous Field Sales Management positions with the Quaker Oats Company and its subsidiaries, retiring as corporate VP of sales.

As an active volunteer, Bob has served on the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Council from 1999-2005, the Osprey Yacht Club-Commodore in 2002, and held positions of Treasurer, Vice President, and President at the Beachwalk Board of Directors. Bob joined IRCVAS in January of 2014 and has been driving since then.
Bob and Judy have two children, a son and his family in Grafton, MA and a daughter in Fleming Island, FL with her family.

About Us
The Squad has positively impacted our community from its inception in 1966 through today.
Staff & Volunteers
Meet our team of staff and volunteers that are the backbone of the IRC Volunteer Ambulance Squad.
Meet a few of our passengers, and hear what they have to say about our medical transport service.