Seven honored by Red Cross with 25th annual Acts of Courage awards

By: Mark Sitch, American Red Cross Volunteer

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

Acts of Courage & Spirit Awards: Honoring individuals for heroism

By Mark Sitch, American Red Cross volunteer

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:

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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, Mike Soots & 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!