National Volunteer Week spotlight: Pete Ulrich remembered as dedicated trainer and great guy who saved lives

By: Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Everyone on the American Red Cross Transportation Specialist and Disaster Program teams knew Peter Ulrich simply as “Pete.” He was well known across Northern Ohio for being an excellent teacher with a natural teaching talent who trained countless volunteers for the Red Cross. Pete was based out of his hometown of Akron, Ohio, but his influence reached across the region. Volunteer transportation specialists deliver lifesaving blood products from Red Cross distribution facilities to hospitals. 

My first time meeting Pete was just over a year ago to learn my role as a transportation specialist. From the start, I was truly impressed with how professional, organized and genuine Pete was. We worked together for about four hours that night. Pete was not only an incredible trainer but he was a lot of fun to work with, hard to keep up with and had a quick-witted sense of humor. 

Over this past year, I would run into Pete while on my routes. He would take to time to say “hi,” ask how I was doing and offer to help if needed. Pete said two things that come to mind whenever I am working in the Akron Red Cross office and delivering to Akron General Hospital. He would say, “This is the world’s slowest elevator,” referring to the Akron Red Cross building each time we were in it. (He just wanted to keep moving!) Second, Pete was showing me around at Akron General Hospital and I feel he was starting to trust me because he said in a witty way, “You will learn really fast that I like to do things my own way,” meaning he had a creative style to get the job done. He made volunteering fun.

Sadly, Pete, age 63, passed away March 13. The retired high school band director and high school administrator was a lifelong learner. In retirement, he earned his Doctor of Education and continued to consult with colleagues. An enthusiastic volunteer, Pete served as an usher for the Akron Civic Theater and E.J. Thomas Hall before becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

“Pete was great guy. That is what everyone says about him that he has touched,” said Debbie Chitester, disaster program manager for the Greater Akron and the Mahoning Valley Red Cross. “He was always someone who would go out of his way for someone. Even during COVID, I would see him there on Sundays making sure the vehicles were all set to go for the drivers. He always took that extra step. Pete trained many of the Biomed drivers, so his legacy will live on.”

“Pete Ulrich was a Red Cross hero. In his volunteer role, he saved lives every day. He took great pride in volunteering for the Red Cross and the transportation program,” said Shelby Beamer, transportation coordinator for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. “The organization will forever be grateful for having Pete Ulrich on our team and his hard work and dedication in helping grow the transportation program in Northern Ohio.”

Pete, you will be missed because you were a good human being, dedicated to your family, an educator, volunteer and hero. In his obituary, Pete suggested taking time each day to communicate with someone you love, be they near or far.

Your time and talent can make a real difference in people’s lives. To learn more about volunteering, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Edited by: Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Special Recognition For a Special Red Cross Volunteer

What HASN’T George Figel done as a volunteer with the American Red Cross?

The Akron resident was honored by the Center for Community Solutions as a “Most Treasured Volunteer,” at the agency’s Celebration of Human Services on Tuesday, November 17, 2015.  He is one of 5 “MTV” recipients for 2014-2015.

George currently volunteers 3-4 days a week as a Blood Donor Ambassador, greeting donors, helping them through the registration process, and making sure they’re comfortable after they make their donation.

During his nearly 30 years of volunteer service, George has: worked on local and national disasters, driven for medical transportation, helped maintain Red Cross facilities, worked with Youth Services, and represented the Red Cross at national conferences and local health fairs.

He has even taken pictures at various events.

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Photo credit: Jim  McIntyre/American Red Cross

George was accompanied by a contingent of Red Cross staff members, including Ann Catanese, Lynne Lisner and Lindsay Harris of Blood Services, and Debra Kellar of Volunteer Services.

Another Red Cross volunteer, Ruby Dailey of Warren was also congratulated as a Commended Volunteer. She has volunteered since 2000.

“These two volunteers are really dedicated to helping us support the mission of the American Red Cross,” said Pat Buckhold, Volunteer Services Officer for the Northeast Ohio Region.  “Their commitment to community service over such a sustained period of time shows just how much George and Ruby care about others.”

Other volunteers honored included Long Term Care Ombudsman Robert Blusko, Louise Dempsey of the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools, Mr. Shirley Stevens of University Hospitals and Dr. Mark Massie of the West Side Catholic Center.

 

Honoring seven everyday heroes at the 15th Annual Real Heroes Awards

On May 15th, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio celebrated the 15th Annual Real Heroes Awards Event.

The event, held at the beautiful Bertram Inn in Aurora, raised over $22,000 for the services and programs of the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio.

The 2014 Honorees include:

David Irland was recognized for using his First Aid knowledge to save a choking child.

During a lunch period last spring, David Irland, a teacher, noticed one of his kindergarten students not acting quite right. Within seconds, David could tell the boy was choking. Quickly and quietly, he knelt behind the boy and performed an abdominal thrust which dislodged a very large bite of sandwich. He took the kindergartener to the school nurse and they were back in the lunchroom within 15 minutes.

Now a first grader, the boy only remembers that his head slumped over and Mr. Irland came up and gave him a big hug.

 

Chance Singer was recognized for rescuing a family from an early morning house fire.

Chance Singer was driving home from work around midnight when he and his passengers spotted the roof of a house consumed by fire. Noticing a car in the driveway, Chance pulled over and ran to the house to alert the residents. After banging on various doors and windows, he had to run back to  his car to recover from the smoke. When he returned for one more attempt, he heard a dog barking. He watched as the family ran out of the burning door. The oldest son had been woken by Chance’s pounding and had pressed his family into action. With the home engulfed in flames, Chance got them across the street to safety.

Chief Seth Riewaldt was recognized for 35 years of altruistic commitment to the Aurora Community and for creating the Community Enhancement Team (CET) and K-9 unit.

Chief Riewaldt will retire in June with 35 years of service to the community of Aurora. He worked his way through the ranks, first as a dispatcher and then as an officer, and was appointed Aurora’s Police Chief in 2003. In his tenure, he has increased the size of the force and assembled funding for the city’s Police K-9 unit. In an effort to enhance the department’s response in the community the Chief created the Community Enhancement Team (CET), which is a division of three officers assigned to address concerns of residents and business owners. He initiated the school resource officer program with the local district, which has grown from one officer to two.

Bart Alcorn was recognized for creating Clay Eddy Fields Kiwanis Park and developing employment programs for area adults with disabilities.

When his daughter was young, he saw a need for more athletic fields in the area. Bart, co-owner of Eddy Fruit Farm, started his own non-profit and began raising funds to create the Clay Eddy Fields Kiwanis Park. The park grew to include baseball and soccer fields which are open to all local teams. It is now the home to the Special Olympics Softball Tournament.

Through the Special Olympics, Bart has become a proud supporter of adults with disabilities. He is taking on a new project that will tie the family business to the community members he has come to know and love. “The Green House Project” will provide fresh vegetables through Eddy Fruit Farm to the community at large all year round and will create jobs for adults with disabilities.

Andrew Wawrin was recognized for inspiring community members to donate over 500 pints of blood to help more than 1500 recipients through the annual Christopher Wawrin Blood Drive.

When his son, Christopher, passed away due to a violent act in December of 1997, Andy Wawrin wanted to observe his birthday in a way that would continue to honor his legacy. Each year he hosts a blood drive on the weekend of Christopher’s birthday. Christopher, who had been a regular blood donor, had received over 100 units of blood while fighting for his life.

In the past 16 years, the family has inspired nearly 500 people to come and donate blood and helping 1500 patients in local hospitals to receive the lifesaving treatments they need.

Zoe Burch was recognized for reporting the threat of school violence.

Zoe was in an online chat room during her second year at Kent State University when she noticed a violent threat towards a high school in Pennsylvania. She reported the threat to Kent State Police which led to involvement from Pennsylvania authorities and the FBl. The threat was confirmed and the suspect was arrested thanks to Zoe’s quick actions.

Dr. Judah Friedman was recognized for going above and beyond to assist his patients when they need it the most.

Dr. Judah Friedman loves the science behind medicine, but his passion is allowing his patients to finalize their lives without their focus being on doctors and hospitals.  Dr. Friedman visits his patients at various hospitals as a friend, he takes their prescriptions to them so their time is spent with family not driving to pharmacies. He will also continue his care as his patient’s transition to hospice and provide his personal cell phone number to be contacted anytime, day or night, even if it’s just to talk. Dr. Friedman goes above and beyond to make sure his patients are focusing on the truly important people in their lives.

Portage County community hero, A. Ray Dalton of PartsSource, was awarded the Robinson Memorial Paragon Award for his contributions to improve Portage County and the world around him.