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.”
To learn more about the Northern Ohio Region, visit redcross.org/noh.