The Haslam family and the Cleveland Browns also honored with Community Leader Award
The American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is proud to announce the individuals and organizations who have been honored as the 2021 Northeast Ohio Hero Award winners.
This year the winners were honored for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation was hosted by veteran journalist Leon Bibb of WKYC News 3. You can view the video here.
The 2021 Greater Cleveland Hero Awards honorees include:
Biomedical Heroes: The Cuyahoga County Library System and Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse were honored for hosting blood drives throughout the pandemic. Bill Kelly and Theresa Brightman represented the County Libraries, and Jeff Kadlup and Brooke Bockleman represented Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Top photo: Jeff Kadlup and Brooke Bockleman of Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Bottom photo Bill Kelly and Theresa Brightman of the Cuyahoga County Library System
Essential Services Heroes: Employees of supermarkets, pharmacies and other retail establishments who risked their health and continued to go to work during the shutdown.
Nonprofit Partner Heroes: The Greater Cleveland Foodbank, represented by President and CEO Kristin Warzocha for their ongoing efforts to feed families throughout the pandemic. Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute for continuing to serve recently incarcerated men and women, under the leadership of founder Brandon Chrostowski.
Kristin Warzocha, left, and Brandon Chrostowski
Dr. Joanne McKell and Nurse Anita White
Frontline Heroes: Medical professionals like Dr. Joanne McKell and Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist Anita White of the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System, who worked tirelessly to care for and protect patients throughout the pandemic.
Volunteer Heroes: Red Cross workers like Jackie Otte who led efforts to provide compassion, comfort and access to resources for people suffering from the physical and emotional effects of COVID-19.
First Responder Heroes: Allen Morinec and Michael Kuznik of Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood who, forced to return home from college during the lockdown, responded to a fire at a neighbor’s home.
Allen Morinec and Michael Kuznik
In addition to honoring local residents who have shown courage during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Cross also honored the Haslam family and the Cleveland Browns with the Community Leader Award, for serving the northeast Ohio community with outstanding leadership, vision and a commitment to the health and well-being of our region.
Please watch this video for a list of the generous sponsors who supported the 2021 Northeast Ohio Hero Awards. Special thanks to event chair Vic DiGeronimo of the DiGeronimo companies for his tremendous support.
The 25th annual Acts of Courage, featuring the H. Peter Burg Community Leadership & Spirit of the Red Cross awards was not the norm this year, but what has been? Nonetheless, on March 4, 2021, courage and recognition did not stop! Due to precautionary measures during COVID-19, the annual honorees made history streaming virtually together for this edition. It is regarded as the greatest celebrated acts of courage, compassion, character and humility in which the American Red Cross proudly honors our region’s deserving recipients each year.
Seven individuals captured Acts of Courage through reactive giving.
Dustin Nist – a Kent State business management student was returning home when he witnessed a car plunge into the Tuscarawas River near the Clinton fire station. He broke a window of the sinking car with a railroad tie after seeing an older woman with water up to her neck in a desperate situation. “I was talking to the lady, letting her know it’s alright,” before responders were able to extract the woman from the car with only minor injuries. He remains modest and said he was acting out of instinct and only glad he could help. Watch Dustin’s story here.
Yamil Encarnacion –a Twinsburg police officer, earned praise after he crawled into an overturned car in the eastbound lane of I-480 to rescue a 4-year-old child pinned in a car seat after an end over end traffic accident. The little girl’s legs were losing color, so officer Encarnacion jumped into action, crawling into the wreckage, cutting the child free. “I remember seeing an officer carrying my daughter, then he went back for my son and there was just blood all over his arms,” according to Emma Johnson, the mother. She says she will never forget what officer Encarnacion did for her and her family. Watch Yamil’s story here.
Richard Santucci & Jim Shepherd – On February 2, 2020, while at work at Nordson Xaloy Inc. in Austintown, Jim Shepherd helped save a life. A man lost consciousness, fell to the ground and began to have a seizure. Jim immediately assessed the man and alerted his team of the escalated incident. Richard Santucci also came to the man’s aid with an AED. Richard began to perform CPR while administering shocks to the gentleman until EMS arrived on scene. The skills learned in the Red Cross Training Services course helped to save the life of this man. Watch Richard and Jim’s story here.
Clarissa Gagne –a journalist with the Akron Beacon Journal, recounts when Clarissa was pregnant with her daughter, she learned CPR as part of her parenting classes. “It’s one of those skills you learn, and you pray you never have to use it.” But the second-grade teacher did so eight years later. Clarissa’s neighbor had collapsed in front of her when she and several neighbors rushed to help. “It was really a whole neighborhood event,” she said. One person called 911, while another watched the woman’s family. Each link in the chain—the person giving CPR, the 911 caller, the dispatcher, the paramedic, the hospital worker, worked together. Watch Clarissa’s story here.
Natalie Weisler – The Portage County 7-year-old woke up at home early Sunday morning November 8, while her parents and brother were still asleep, she went into the living room to watch television. Only a short time had passed before she heard a startling crash from the kitchen. Upon investigating, she found the breezeway in flames. Remaining calm, Natalie woke her parents and older brother to get out safely. Though the damages were extensive, she was brave under pressure and as her father, Justin Weisler, boldly stated, his daughter simply saved their lives. Watch Natalie’s story here.
Joanne White – The 80-year-old suffers from multiple health issues and has been confined to her Boardman home since March 2020, due to COVID-19. Rather than feeling sorry for herself, she began making masks. She made a bundle of masks weekly in all different fabrics, styles and seasonal designs to distribute to anyone who needed them. On a fixed income and never asking for any money or credit to buy materials, she only wanted to make people smile. She cannot imagine making money off those who may not have the means for something so important. Joanne has has made over 1,200 masks and has shipped them all over the country, essentially “covering” our community. Watch Joanne’s story here.
2021 Peter H. Burg Community Leadership Award – Honorees of this year’s philanthropic legacy award are an inspired couple who have embraced their adopted hometown, Nick and Cindy Browning. Nick is the president of Huntington National Bank and Huntington-Akron Foundation. Nick engages leaders, colleagues, customers and communities in improving the lives of families. Cindy is a dedicated community volunteer, having retired after a 35-year nursing career. Her passion for Hospice of Summa and Grace House Akron continues as she serves as a volunteer member and coordinator on the capital and policy committees. The couple’s past work includes youth, health, nonprofit and many other community projects. They were honored for the difference they make in the lives of those in our communities.
The 2021 Spirit of the Red Cross Award Winners – Through their success in the automotive industry, Greg and Alice Greenwood and their family of companies have become synonymous in the Mahoning Valley with devotion for over 36 years. The Greenwoods serve by following the core values the Greenwood dealerships were built upon: Respect, Trust, Honestly, Loyalty and Professionalism. The Greenwood family and its dealership teams are agents for philanthropy and community contribution by supporting the Red Cross in Youngstown, where Greg was an active board member and speaker. Their dealerships support many diverse organizations and events, including local schools, youth clubs, family healthcare and nonprofits. The Greenwood family and dealerships follow the example that Greg and Alice set in raising their three children, with selflessness and generosity.
Thank you to all the deserving award winners for placing others first and, like the Red Cross, being there when help is needed. You, too, can be a local hero. If you are interested in volunteering or to learn more about what caring folks and the Red Cross do on an ongoing basis, visit redcross.org.
Edited By: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer
By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio
January 20, 2021- Have you ever wanted to get CPR and AED training, but you thought you would never have an opportunity to use your training to save a life? Well, hopefully today’s post will change your mind.
On January 11, 2020, while working during an indoor track meet at the Stile Athletic Field House, a spectator in the stands began to experience chest pains.
John and Kalie quickly responded to the aid of the gentleman. Instantly their Red Cross training kicked in as they delivered breath and chest compressions and administered an AED, until first responders were able to arrive to assist.
Thanks to the quick thinking and responsiveness of John and Kalie, the spectator survived and made a full recovery.
During a virtual ceremony last week, the American Red Cross of Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley presented John and Kalie with the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders, the highest award given to an individual, or team of individuals, who saves or sustains a life, outside of a medical setting, as part of their employment or while on duty.
“I am always amazed when someone takes the wherewithal to act. That is the hardest step,” stated Phil Ormandy, American Red Cross Training Services, during the presentation. “I am very proud of you [John and Kalie] and thankful that you put your training in action to save a life.”
“Thankfully John and Kalie were at the right place at the right time. I am proud of them and the University of Akron for holding these trainings,” said Max Elder, John and Kalie’s coworker, who nominated them for the award.
The American Red Cross offers training programs in various areas from first aid, CPR, AED administration, water safety, babysitting and more. Learn more about Red Cross lifesaving courses here.
By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio
October 26, 2020- For many of us, the current coronavirus global pandemic has consumed our day-to-day lives, and often leaves us not able to focus on ourselves. Now add simultaneous disasters going on across the country, as well as local disasters, and this has been the existence of the staff of the American Red Cross of Northern Ohio.
While the Northern Ohio Red Cross staff members do not expect thanks and praise, the region’s leadership took the opportunity to hold a virtual staff meeting to reflect on the staff’s many successes this year. Dressed up as television and movie characters, the staff shared laughs and reveled in seeing one another, even if it was virtual.
The meeting was also an opportunity to award some of the staff and praise their work of going above and beyond during these difficult, unprecedented times.
The CEO Award is given to an employee who has made an outstanding contribution within their position.
This year, the award was presented to John Gareis.
With over 40 years of experience, John has been a central force in ensuring the safety and preparation of the residents of Northern Ohio. This year, with individuals unable to meet in person, John’s commitment led him to be innovative and transform his disaster preparation classes into virtual classes.
“John has an unbridled passion for ensuring every home in Northern Ohio is well prepared in the event a disaster occurs,” stated Mike Parks, Regional CEO. “Even with almost 45 years of Red Cross experience, John tackles every assignment with the same energy as if it was his first day on the job. When the global pandemic shut everything down, John knew it was more important than ever to ensure people were well prepared so he found creative ways to do so, including teaching virtual disaster preparedness classes. John not only embraces the Red Cross mission, but also truly embodies the Red Cross values.
The Spirit of Excellence Award
This award is presented of an employee who not only completes his or her normal tasks at an above average level, but has exceeded expectations in one or more areas.
This year, the Red Cross of Northern Ohio presented the award to two employees: Rich Barrett and Kristen Gallagher.
Rich has the very important task of overseeing every facility in the region. During the pandemic, like with many of his tasks, without looking for praise, Rich worked diligently to ensure our facilities were safe for staff and visitors.
“When walking through our Red Cross facilities, many people don’t realize what it takes to keep them running. Behind the scenes, with a smile on his face, Rich works to ensure the guests to our facilities have a positive experience and to ensure that our staff has everything they need to fulfill our mission,” said Jorge Martinez, Regional COO. “While Rich comes to work every day without looking for praise, I know I speak for everyone in the Northern Ohio Region when I say he is very deserving of this award and exemplifies the selflessness of our Red Cross staff.”
Kristen Gallagher is the disaster program specialist for the Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley Chapter. Kristen oversees the region’s local disaster response in the Mahoning Valley. Kristen is also the first to lend a helping hand to assist a colleague in another part of the region.
“Kristen is a key member of our DCS (disaster cycle services) team. Her connectivity to the community as well as the volunteers is one of the keys to her success,” exclaimed Renee Palagyi, Disaster Program Manager. “Her compassion for the clients and her team is evident in all of her actions. Perhaps her best quality is her positive attitude and always friendly demeanor. She is critical to our successes in the Mahoning Valley.”
The Teamwork Award is designed to recognize a group of people who may work in the same department or may have worked across departmental lines to achieve a goal or complete a special project.
This award was fittingly presented to the Recognition Committee.
During the pandemic, the Recognition Committee knew the importance of taking time out of our day to take a breather to help with our mental health. The region’s virtual staff meetings were always filled with anticipation to see what new activity or video the Recognition Committee came up with that week, that brought a smile to everyone’s face.
“The Recognition Committee has been vital to ensuring the mental and physical well-being of our staff remains positive during COVID-19,” said Mike Parks. “Although we cannot be together physically, this group has found new and creative ways to put smiles on our faces and let our staff know just how appreciated they truly are. I know for a fact everyone’s favorite time during our virtual staff meetings is when the Recognition Committee is presenting.”
July 24, 2020- Imagine seeing a high school student fall to the ground while watching a football team practice. Would your first inclination be to assume he was horsing around? Fortunately, Shamara Golden, a student at Youngstown State University, was watching and had a sense there was more to it than that.
Shamara and athletic trainer Alex McCaskey rushed to his aid. Finding that he was still breathing and still had a pulse, but was unresponsive and unconscious, Alex stayed by his side and called 911. Shamara ran for the AED machine and medical kit.
Shamara Golden with her Red Cross Certificate of Merit
While she was gone, the student stopped breathing. Alex immediately began CPR. As she returned, Alex cut open his shirt as Shamara attached the AED pads for assessment. Following the instructions on the AED, they delivered a shock, which caused him to start breathing again.
Once the victim began to breathe again, Alex stabilized the victim’s spine while Shamara rolled the victim into recovery position. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the victim stopped breathing again and the AED advised to continue CPR. Alex began to again administer five rounds of CPR until the ambulance arrived.
“I received a call from the boy’s mother when he was taken off the ventilator in the hospital,” recalled Alex. “That was an amazing feeling, getting that call. After that, a number of the Warren G. Harding High School administration members came down to congratulate Shamara and me at future football games.”
Virtual award presentation featuring Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley Chapter Executive Director Rachel Telegdy, Northern Ohio Region CEO Mike Parks, Dr. Morgan Bagley, Shamara Golden and Alex McCaskey
“The day after it happened,” explained Shamara, “I didn’t mention it to my class, because I still hadn’t heard how the boy was doing. After we heard that he was fine, my classmates found out and there were cheers all around.”
Alex and Shamara were nominated for American Red Cross lifesaving awards by Dr. Morgan Bagley, associate professor at Youngstown State University where Shamara was studying to become an athletic trainer.
Alex received the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for those who step up in an emergency to save or sustain a life. Shamara received the Certificate of Merit, the highest award given by the Red Cross to a person who saves a life using the skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course.
“I’m so proud of both of them,” said Dr. Bagley. “Shamara told me, ‘It’s just like you said, we have to constantly practice to be prepared for anything and everything.’”
Without a doubt, the skills learned in the American Red Cross CPR and AED Training class helped to save the life of this student.
You, too, can sign up and receive training in CPR, AED and First Aid with the Red Cross. Online classes are available. Click here to get started.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer
September 13, 2019- For Canton South High School, the new school year began with a celebration of heroism and life. At the school’s first staff meeting, the American Red Cross presented Kristen Smith, one of the school’s teachers, with its Certificate of Merit. It is the highest award given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course.
The award was given to Kristen for her efforts that helped save a fellow teacher’s life. Last January, Kristen—who is trained in Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED—recognized the signs when a colleague began to choke during lunch. She quickly reacted, confirmed that the teacher was indeed choking, and performed abdominal thrusts until food was dislodged from her colleague’s airway.
Kristen’s colleagues nominated her for the Certificate of Merit over summer break, worked with Red Cross representatives to verify her remarkable actions, and helped plan for the award’s presentation. At the school’s first staff meeting, Kristen was surprised with the award.
Kimberly Kroh, executive director of the American Red Cross’ Stark & Muskingum Lakes Chapter, presented the award. “It was such an honor to present Kristen Smith with the Certificate of Merit, one of the highest awards given by the American Red Cross,” she said. “It amazes me how one second can change someone’s life, and Kristen did just that when she saved the life of a fellow teacher.”
Jeff Moore, principal of Canton South High School, said, “Kristen exemplifies what we want all of our staff and students to be, someone who takes their education/training and uses those for the betterment of others, someone who is caring and is not afraid to be involved. We could not be more proud of Kristen and all she represents in Wildcat Nation.”
The Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross is proud to have been part of the presentation and to have prepared Kristen for her heroic actions. The skills she learned certainly helped her save a life.
June 21, 2019- The annual Acts of Courage & the Spirit of the Red Cross awards was held at the Metroplex in Liberty, Ohio on Thursday, June 13th. It is regarded as the greatest evening of celebrated acts of courage, compassion, character & humility in which the Red Cross Lake to River Chapter proudly honors its deserving recipients each year.
Following a guest reception and social period, Debbi Grinstein, Lake to River board chair, welcomed all to an evening of regional recognition. Opening remarks followed the presentation of colors by Troop 40 of Girard and the chapter’s Disaster Action Teams (DAT) that took part in the hero’s processional. The program master of ceremonies was Greg Greenwood, representing the Greenwood Foundation and a Red Cross Hope Partner.
After a delicious dinner buffet was enjoyed by nearly 300 in attendance, the focal point of this night was now center stage. The spirit of giving and courage was squarely in the spotlight with patriotism for our country, community and individuals exemplifying acts of selflessness. Ten individuals for their heroic efforts and a respected business that captured the spirit of proactive giving were honored. Recipients were:
Nathen White – (Mahoning County) The Mill Creek Metro Park police officer didn’t plan on saving the life of Malayla Jackson. However, recognizing her allergic reaction, struggling to breathe and time restraints, he hurried her to the hospital in his squad car for the help needed for her survival. “She felt like she was dying”, time was critical and officer White’s quick actions saved her life.
Candice Desanzo – (East Palestine) didn’t know Ruth Kennedy; that is until their paths crossed in an emergency at a local restaurant. While enjoying dinner, Candice witnessed Ruth collapse from an apparent chocking episode. She immediately cared for her with both abdominal thrusts & CPR until EMS arrived. Candice made a difference in positive outcome through her training in live saving techniques.
Fab Four (Mosquito Lake) – Scot Oehlstrom, Rod Schaaf, MikeSoots & Zachery Westrich all had one thing in common on this cold January afternoon – ice fishing. Their second commonality became sharply apparent when they collaborated together to help a family of seven when their tent broke through the ice and heard their calls for help. Nearly 30 yards from shore with a ten-year-old untested rope and the determination of these four enthusiasts knew they had to act fast due to hypothermia. These men, with the screams for help ranging in ages from 7 to 34 were answered in affirmative actions rescuing each one from the frigid water. All survived the frightening ordeal because of the bravery of this fab four who now have more in common; they are heroes.
Mat Jamison (Girard) – Officer Jamison was on routine patrol when he noticed fire at the back of a duplex apartment in the city. After calling the fire department, he felt he had to act now to avoid a possible tragic outcome and entered the burning building with disregard for his own safety to rescue the adults & children inside. Girard Police Chief, John Norman interjected that Jamison had no reservations on going into the house, knocking on doors and getting the people to safety. The department, the city and the community are proud to recognize and honor his efforts that go above and beyond his call of duty.
Judy Sheve (Ashtabula) – Is another of our heroes that knew what to do in a choking emergency, such is the case of a fortunate 91-year-old Simone Campbell. While attending a senior center bridge club night, waitress Judy, recognized the chocking patron and with quick action of abdominal thrusts saved a golden life. In a twist, she left the tip that night; training is paramount in an emergency.
Madison Withrow (Ashtabula) – Is only 10 years old, which is why sharing her story of courage is so important. Madison was home with her mom and her 5 younger siblings when a fire broke out in their home. Against all odds and the will of passion, she was able to carry two 4-month-old twins and return for a 2-year-old brother to safety before first responders arrived. Sadly, Maddie nor the fire fighters could rescue her mother or two younger brothers. We honor and celebrate her selfless courage.
If handling emergencies like the preceding honorees are called acts of courage. Then planning to avoid a life-threatening emergency also falls into the same category, but over a longer period of time as with our next hero.
David Crawford (Canfield) – The local High School is the epicenter of a friendship of Coach Crawford and his boss, Athletic Director, Greg Cooper. Greg was diagnosed with non-alcoholic end stage liver disease-cirrhosis and was waiting for a match. When the coach found out that he was an exact match, “I knew I had the chance to save my friend” he said. That he did, donating 65% of his liver to save Greg’s life that would have ended all too soon.Greg’s daughter delivered a public heartfelt message of affection for the Crawford family and David’s gift of life for her father in a compassionate moment.
Hill Barth & King (HBK) – Was awarded the Spirit of the Red Cross. Founded in Youngstown in 1949 with seventeen offices in five states, they exemplify leadership in the community; compassion for its people and dedication to the life saving mission of the Red Cross.
The closing remarks by chapter director, Karen Conklin, expressed the compassion for family, a friend or a stranger develops extraordinary character, courage and humility that is the spirit of the Red Cross.
Thank you to the Acts of Courage Committee, chair Grinstein, the chapter board, committee judges and the awesome staff for their planning. It was a proud night for our chapter to honor these recipients. Congratulations and thank you for your selfless acts of courage & spirit!
J.M. Smucker Company recognized for humanitarian efforts
By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio
May 3, 2019- Celebration will be in the air on Saturday, May 11 at The Global Center for Health Innovation. The American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio will be hosting the Wrapped in Red Gala.
The Wrapped in Red Gala is a special “thank you” celebration recognizing the generosity of local organizations that have been instrumental in helping with the cost of a new bloodmobile for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio.
The Red Cross relies on bloodmobiles to fulfill its mission to collect and deliver lifesaving blood. To make giving blood as convenient as possible, bloodmobiles—specially fitted buses containing equipment, beds and supplies—are vital to reaching today’s busy donors near their homes, workplaces, schools and other community-based locations.
Unfortunately, the current fleet of bloodmobiles is aging. The newest of the three regional bloodmobiles is 8-years-old, just two years from its recommended replacement at 10 years.
A new state-of-the-art bloodmobile measures 40-feet long and 8.5 feet wide and includes three health history booths where donors’ eligibility screenings are conducted, as well as up to five beds where blood is drawn.
Along with celebrating of the local community in helping the Red Cross collect much need blood to help save lives, the Wrapped in Red Gala will honor one of the region’s premier philanthropic companies.
The J.M. Smucker Company will be presented with the Steve D. Bullock Humanitarian of the Year Award.
Executive Chairman Richard Smucker will be accepting the award on behalf of the company. The award will be presented by Beth Mooney, the chairman and CEO of KeyCorp, and a previous recipient of the Humanitarian Award.
KeyBank is the presenting sponsor of the Wrapped in Red Gala.
Beth Mooney accepting the Steve D. Bullock Humanitarian of the Year Award
A leading Northeast Ohio business for more than 120 years, Smucker has always operated with the philosophy that being a successful business and a responsible one is not mutually exclusive. The company believes that success is only possible by ensuring those who support and are impacted by its business thrive along with it. In that spirit, Smucker supports a wide range of organizations nationally, including the American Red Cross, Feeding America, Rescue Bank, and the United Way, among others.
The company also has several local partners, including the American Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter, Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland, the Akron Canton Foodbank, Akron Children’s Hospital, and the LeBron James Family Foundation.
Following the award presentation, the Red Cross of Greater Cleveland Young Professionals Council will sponsor an after-party, which will include entertainment and dancing.
To schedule a blood donation appointment and to find a blood drive near you, visit RedCrossBlood.org.
By Christy Peters, External Communications Manager, Northern Ohio Blood Region
March 25, 2019- Recently, the American Red Cross presented Kalahari Resorts & Conventions with its Premier Blood Drive Partner award. The Premier Partner program recognizes blood drive sponsors who have collected at least 50 pints in a year. Last year, Kalahari collected 115 pints of lifesaving blood for local patients.
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions recently received the Premier Blood Drive Partner Award earlier this year. L to R: Angie Reyes, HR Director, Iryna Pylypenko, Employment Manager, Mary Ann Benton, Brian Shanle, General Manager
More than 80 percent of blood donations are made at blood drives organized by volunteer sponsor groups and coordinators. Right now, blood drive hosts are needed for spring and throughout the year. A blood drive is a commitment to help meet the needs of seriously ill or injured patients. Blood products are essential for the treatment of accident victims, surgical and sickle cell disease patients, those receiving cancer treatments, premature babies and others.
James Lassiter III of Garfield Heights donated blood at a recent Kalahari hosted blood drive in February
February 15, 2019- Bill Conley was taking part in an amphibious landing exercise on the island of Vieques off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast when he received the bad news: his grandmother had passed away. Word came to his commanding officer, after his mother had contacted the American Red Cross.
He was sent home to attend the funeral. He was 19 years old.
“I remember very distinctly, I vowed to myself that if I could, someday I would pay them back for helping me get home,” Bill said. More than 55 years later, Bill continues to offer that pay back, by volunteering with the Red Cross at the headquarters of the Northeast Ohio Region.
“I believe in the mission. I won’t leave as long as my health holds out.”
Bill is the Regional Mass Care Manager and a logistics supervisor, and helps plan for and execute sheltering, feeding and other services the Red Cross provides. He has been a Red Cross volunteer since the year 2000.
Bill’s continuing work with the Red Cross and his experience in the U. S. Navy are now intersecting. He has been named the 2019 Outstanding Veteran of the Year by the Joint Veterans Council of Cuyahoga County.
He said the recognition is truly gratifying.
“I treasure this honor, because now I have this real connection with people in the armed forces, because of my experience in the Navy and what the Red Cross was able to do for me when I was there.”
When he joined the Navy at age 17, Bill said he didn’t have focus. “The military provided the structure and the discipline I needed.”
Now, all these years later, Bill said the Red Cross provides him with the opportunity he needs to help others.
“Providing immediate assistance after people go through a house fire or some other disaster, that is my most rewarding experience.”
If you have an interest in helping others, like Bill does, visit redcross.org/neo and click “Volunteer” to start an application.
If you’d like to cheer Bill on as he receives his Outstanding Veteran of the Year award, attend the 94th anniversary luncheon of the Joint Veterans Council of Cuyahoga County on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Visit here for tickets or call 216-373-7799.