JAMESTOWN - The Mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. When crises and disasters strike, the members and supporters of the American Red Cross join together and respond.
This year, the Chautauqua County District of the Southwestern NY Chapter of the American Red Cross, together with major corporate sponsor NRG Dunkirk Power, conducted its 10th annual "Salute to Hometown Heroes" celebration to recognize those local heroes who have demonstrated a tremendous willingness to help their neighbors during times of great need. This breakfast event celebration held at the Moon Brook Country Club in Jamestown on Friday, May 18 recognized and celebrated the knowledge, skill and actions of seven exceptional individuals.
"Our Hometown Heroes Event is a wonderful way to recognize ordinary people doing extraordinary things," Southwestern NY Chapter Executive Director Bill Tucker said.
The Southwestern New York Chapter of the American Red Cross recently recognized local Hometown Heroes. From left to right are: Cadet Technical Sergeant Brandon Powell; Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace; David Dole; Adam Kester; Nadine Mackey, accepting for Marsha Okerlund; Joseph Kelwaski; and Constance Keyser. Not pictured is John Kwietniewski.
This year's recipients of the Everydays TrueValue Firefighter award were David Dole, a 19-year veteran, and Adam Kester, an 11-year veteran, both of the Panama Fire Department. At 1:30 a.m., on Nov. 11, 2011, the Panama Fire Department was dispatched to a barn fire on Route 474 near Blockville. While fighting the blaze, these two Hometown Heroes were badly injured when a heavy well casing fell from the structure. Their injuries kept them in intensive care for several days, and they have each undergone extensive surgeries for their injuries. As their nominator put it, "words cannot express the appreciation that goes out to our volunteer firefighters for putting their lives on the line."
Marsha Okerlund of Westfield was the recipient of the Nestl Purina PetCare Animal Rescue Award. Okerlund is a wonderful woman who has dedicated her life to saving dogs. She does her best to rehabilitate and find forever homes for all the abandoned dogs that are lucky enough to pass through the doors of the Northern Chautauqua Canine Rescue. Her efforts have saved hundreds of dogs, though she is quick to point out that it is truly a community effort.
This year's recipient of the Farm Fresh Foods Law Enforcement award is a 34-plus year veteran of the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Joseph Gerace was appointed a full-time deputy sheriff in 1979 and has served in pivotal roles within and as a leader of the office throughout his career. The Red Cross honored Sheriff Gerace for his performance as a dedicated law enforcement professional and for his continued commitment to local schools and communities. He is an active volunteer and, notably, serves as President of the Chautauqua Children's Safety Education Village. For his dedicated public service, Sheriff Gerace is a true Chautauqua County Hometown Hero.
The winner of the KeyBank Youth Award was Cadet Technical Sergeant Brandon Powell. Joseph Kelwaski of CARTS was awarded the Cummins, Inc. Workplace Hero award. Constance Keyser of the Cassadaga Volunteer Fire Department was the recipient of the Chautauqua Patrons Insurance Company Emergency Personnel Award. The recipient of the NRG Dunkirk Power Humanitarian Award was John Kwietniewski.
These heroes and those sponsoring their awards are recognized by the American Red Cross in what has become an annual tradition. Funds raised through this event will support local Chapter programs such as disaster relief operations and Service to Armed Forces activities in Chautauqua County.