In the fall of 1959, Donald Davies, Reginald Ray McLawhorne and Edward Donald Lewis were citizens of Richmond who saw a need that was not being met in their neighborhood: emergency medical care and transport for the sick and injured. To fulfill that need, these men worked tirelessly to form the West End Volunteer Rescue Squad, whose first unit marked in service on February 18th, 1960.
In those days, the squad was headquartered in a Texaco gas station, located at 3501 West Cary Street, where Mr. McLawhorne was the station operator. There were 24 original members and one 1955 Cadillac ambulance. Some members “pulled” duty every other night, and the only required certification was a First Aid card from the American Red Cross; the Emergency Medical Technician certification was still 6 years away, and the first Paramedics wouldn’t be seen for almost a decade.
Early problems centered on training and fund raising, two problems that still exist today; in the early days squad members sometimes filled the gas tank and bought supplies with money from their own pockets.
Eventually a second ambulance was purchased through a loan secured by individual members. This new ambulance was equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including a two-way radio, allowing the ambulance to communicate with the squad headquarters while on the road.
In 1961 the squad relocated to a 27-foot house trailer that was purchased for $500.00. This trailer was located on the vacant lot behind the Texaco station at 4150 West Broad Street.
In 1968 the squad purchased the land at 1802 Chantilly Street, where our headquarters still stands. The first duty crew to run a call from the new building did so on November 23rd, 1968.
Ten years later, the first Advanced Life Support Ambulance hit the street, and from 1979 to 1983 West End Rescue Squad staffed and maintained the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the Medical College of Virginia. This unit traveled all over the Commonwealth of Virginia, staffed by West End volunteers.
In October of 1983, West End Rescue became the first Emergency Medical Services unit dispatched to a 911 call as part of the new Richmond EMS system.
In 2013, we decided that the “West End” name no longer accurately reflected the community we serve; on December 6th, 2013 our name changed from the West End Volunteer rescue Squad to the Richmond Volunteer Rescue Squad.
Currently, the Richmond Volunteer Rescue Squad is the only volunteer agency that exclusively serves the City of Richmond, and does so as an integral part of the Richmond EMS system, in cooperation with our partners at the Richmond Ambulance Authority. Our ambulances are dispatched to emergencies city-wide, and we maintain equipment to respond to disasters and other mass casualty incidents throughout the Commonwealth.