Hatzolah Expands Emergency Service

After midnight one Sunday last December, Motty Stock found his wife, Freda, unconscious on the bedroom floor. He picked up two phones and simultaneously called 911 and Hatzolah, an all-volunteer emergency first-response service.

While Stock was still on the phone giving information to 911, two Hatzolah volunteers bounded up the stairs to his Hancock Park home and began working on the 28-year-old woman, who was having a seizure and choking on vomit.

By the time the ambulance arrived 15 minutes after the initial call, Hatzolah volunteers had Freda Stock stabilized. They transferred her to the care of paramedics, got a babysitter for the three children so Motty Stock could ride along in the ambulance and sent someone to Ralphs to buy formula for the 4-week-old baby.

“They saved her life,” Stock said. “It is impossible for me to describe what they did for us. It’s invaluable.”

Now, thousands more will have access to the life-saving skills of Hatzolah, which last month expanded its 3-year-old pilot program in Hancock Park to Valley Village and the Pico-Robertson area.

“Over the past three years, we have perfected ourselves in the sense that we are better equipped to meet the immediate needs of the emergency,” said Zvika Brenner, president of Hatzolah Los Angeles. “Working together with local paramedics, we now know what they expect of us when they show up; we know what kind of information to obtain in order to make a seamless transfer of patient care when they arrive.”

Aside from its near daily responses to medical emergencies, in the last three years Hatzolah in the Beverly-Fairfax-La Brea area has helped the Los Angeles Police Department capture a serial rapist, responded to a plane crash in the Fairfax neighborhood and has helped find five missing persons. At the request of city and county officials, some volunteers are training to respond to mass casualty incidents, such as earthquakes or terrorist attacks.

City and county fire and law enforcement departments, as well as local politicians, have praised Hatzolah’s ability to become an integral part of Los Angeles’ emergency response system.

Fifty new volunteers have been certified as county emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in the heavily Orthodox Valley Village and Pico-Robertson areas.

Hatzolah, Hebrew for rescue, does not have its own ambulances and does not replace calling 911. Rather, it acts as a bridge in the critical first minutes of an emergency until paramedics arrive.

The average ambulance response time in Los Angeles is six to 10 minutes. Hatzolah’s average response time is 90 seconds, since all volunteers work and live in the areas they serve and constantly wear radios and have easy access to equipment.

“In an emergency, six to 10 minutes is an eternity,” said Azriel Aharon, a coordinator and volunteer EMT for the Pico-Robertson area. “Even if we only beat [the ambulance] by two minutes, that can be the difference between life and death.”

Hatzolah volunteers are equipped with defibrillators, oxygen tanks and trauma kits.

They train for 120 hours to receive EMT status and are able to perform everything from basic first aid to life-saving procedures, such as tracheotomies. They also learn how to secure an accident scene and gather the pertinent information to transfer care to the medical and emergency professionals when they arrive. Volunteers take additional classes in city and county protocol, and do ride-alongs with county ambulances.

The volunteers are all Shabbat-observant married males, as per the original 1972 Hatzolah New York charter, which also provides guidelines for halachic liberties that can be taken to save life or limb.

Hatzolah in Hancock Park, with about 35 volunteers, has received an average of a call a day. Tripling its area of coverage has necessitated improving the two-way radio system and equipping two more garages with supplies for restocking.

Hatzolah is currently training more dispatchers — mostly women — who take around-the-clock shifts of several hours to answer a dedicated Hatzolah line in their homes.

Hatzolah will respond to anyone who calls, but its publicity is done through synagogues and schools in the areas it serves.

Startup costs for Hatzolah in the Pico-Robertson area, which has about 40 volunteers, was about $150,000 and in the Valley was about $30,000 for 18 volunteers. Citywide, it will cost about $120,000 a year to maintain, with all of the money raised through private donations.

Yossi Manila is forever thankful to Hatzolah volunteers who rushed to his house late on a Friday afternoon after his 2-year-old daughter swallowed a dozen chewable Benadryls (Poison Control informed him that up to 20 chewables wasn’t harmful).

“When your daughter is lying unconscious in your arms, and you can’t figure out what to do, you just feel extremely helpless and extremely hopeless,” Manila said. “Hatzolah came, and they were extremely professional and extremely comforting.”

For emergencies, call 911, then (800) 933-6460. For
nonemergencies, call (310) 841-2328 or visit www.hatzolah.org .

Contributing Editor Tom Tugend contributed to this article.

It’s a Full Plate in Nourishing the Sick

Bob S. insists that his mother back in Virginia made the best chicken soup ever, but he’s willing to admit the homemade version delivered to his Van Nuys apartment is a close second.

The delivery is part of the mission of Project Chicken Soup, an all-volunteer group that cooks, packages and personally delivers kosher meals twice a month to patients living with HIV and AIDS. It might be a chicken breast or a casserole, along with the soup, salad, fruit, dessert or even a protein drink.

Bob, who’s 61 and lives alone, said the food is crucial for him, but it goes deeper than that. “If it wasn’t for Project Chicken Soup, there wouldn’t be a connection to the Jewish community for some of us, and I wouldn’t be cooking for myself,” he said. “I don’t have the energy or the interest or the desire to eat.”

For Project Chicken Soup President Rod Barn, whose client list has grown steadily from 20 in the early ’90s to more than 100, the task of meeting a growing demand when charitable donations and grants are harder to secure is a never ending challenge.

“So far, we haven’t had to turn anyone away, and we don’t want to,” Barn said. “A lot of our clients say when they get our food, it reminds them of better times. They smell the chicken soup, and it brings them love and warmth, and that’s what we’re about.”

It’s a similar story elsewhere, from small programs to large, as medical advances mean more people are living better and longer with AIDS and HIV. Whether it’s Project Chicken Soup; Aids Service Foundation (ASF) Orange County, with its 1,500 clients; St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels, which serves 50 to 75 HIV and AIDS patients a day out of 1,650 clients; or Project Angel Food, which cooks and delivers 1,200 meals daily, they have to do more with less.

Larry Kuzela of ASF Orange County said this “has always been a struggle and continues to be. We’ve never had a waiting list, and we’ve never turned anyone away, but we have a reserve fund, and we’ve had to dig into our reserves.” Sister Alice Marie of St. Vincent’s was only half joking when she said, “I pray a lot” to make sure there is enough money.

At Project Angel Food, considered a model for this type of service nationally, Executive Director John Gile said, “We’ve added 800 new clients in 2002 alone, yet we have over 20,000 donors, with the average gift being $38. We always seem to get the gift when we need it most.”

“Since we’re based in Hollywood, we have strong support and generosity from the entertainment industry, which this year alone will help us raise a half-million dollars,” he continued. “We’re proud to say that if you call Project Angel Food today, you get a meal tomorrow”

On the other side of the table, groups that give grants and funding to AIDS service providers would like to do more, but they also must compete for donations. For example, MAZON, A Jewish Response to Hunger, which receives the majority of its donations from individuals, plans to give away approximately $3.4 million to 250 organizations nationwide in this fiscal year. Project Angel Food and Project Chicken Soup, which is under the umbrella of Jewish Family Service, a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, are among the grant recipients.

Grants Director Mia Johnson said, “The sense or urgency is not as strong as it was in the ’80s and ’90s, so it’s a challenge for these organizations to make sure people understand their ongoing needs and the evolution of those needs”

The nutritionally balanced meals that are provided can literally make the difference between life and death for those struggling to stay healthy, and that’s why Steven F. of Santa Monica, said of Project Angel Food’s work: “It’s very crucial. Every day, I think of it as a gift. It is something I look forward to, and it provides me with good, cooked food that I wouldn’t and couldn’t do for


For more information about Project Chicken Soup, call
(323) 655-5330 or visit “>www.angelfood.org; for MAZON, call (310)
442-0020 or visit