Each year, the American Red Cross Connecticut Chapter honors community heroes that make a difference in the lives of others. This year’s honorees are profiled here. The Heroes Breakfast is Friday, January 30, at 7:30 a.m. at the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa, 243 Tresser Boulevard in Stamford. Our Emcee is Tom Appleby, News Director and Anchor with News 12 Connecticut. Statewide Presenting Sponsor of the Heroes Breakfast is Wells Fargo.
For more information or tickets, click here.
Workplace Hero – GE
GE is being honored for its commitment to supporting American Red Cross disaster relief work and programs as well as its outstanding philanthropic and volunteer commitment to communities across Connecticut and the nation.
GE has been one of the most generous supporters of the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, helping the Red Cross respond immediately to help people affected by disasters anywhere, any time. GE has been one of the most valuable partners, supporting the Red Cross capacity to respond when needed.
GE employees are generous as well, supporting the Red Cross with volunteer hours and gifts of blood donations.
Locally, GE employees have helped to package disaster relief supplies and provided stuffed animals for children affected by disaster. And Global HR Operations Leader Susan Beauregard serves on the Board of the Connecticut Chapter, lending time and skills to Red Cross operations here in the state.
In the last six months alone, GE employees have donated more than 1,500 units of lifesaving blood. And in the past five years, GE employees have donated more than 30,000 units of blood at more than 1,000 drives across the nation. And GE employees gave more than $350,000 last year to support American Red Cross disaster relief.
“GE understands that resilient communities rely on the active participation of business partners as well as individuals,” said American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region CEO Mario Bruno. “They set a high bar in corporate leadership that helps to make our communities better, safer places to live and work.”
Military Hero – Alfred Meadows
Alfred Meadows, of Huntington, is a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart Medal recipient who served in both the Republic of Korea and Vietnam conflicts. He is also the founder of “Operation Gift Cards,” which has presented more than 17,000 thank you kits valued at more than $800,000 to wounded troops and military support groups.
Since October 2005, Operation Gift Cards volunteers have made 114 visits to wounded troops and their families at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. They have presented gift certificates from the “PX” military department store; donated goods, including Girl Scout cookies, refurbished laptop computers and corporate gift certificates; as well as specific “wish list” items requested by patients. Nearly 300 representatives from 70 co-sponsoring organizations have participated in the visits.
Although Meadows has been an advocate for veterans for more than 30 years, Operation Gift Cards is the largest and longest-running project he has been involved with. Meadows said he feels “honored and thankful” that Operation Gift Cards has received recognition. He said the program has been the ongoing effort of not only an extremely dedicated committee, but also a group of 275 volunteers who have participated in the two-day trips to visit the wounded troops, as well as the thousands of individual donors, and the 70 organizations who have contributed funds and items.
These donations have been delivered to several facilities and partners at Walter Reed, including the Red Cross office there and have been distributed to many people, brightening their stay at the facility.
Sponsored by O.F. Mossberg & Sons
Life Saving Heroes – David Ellis, Ian Chasnow, Joseph Bairaktaris, Jr.
The quick thinking and collaborative actions of Town of Westport employees David Ellis, Ian Chasnow and Joseph Bairaktaris Jr., saved the life of co-worker “Doc” Kashka who suffered a heart attack at work.
On the evening of May 31 2014, Joseph Bairaktaris, Jr., and David Ellis were working the main gate at the Ned Dimes Marina on Compo Beach. Joseph took a walk to the marina across the play fields and basketball courts. Encountering Doc on his walk, Bairaktaris stopped and talked briefly, Kashka joking as he normally does.
After their conversation, Bairaktaris started to walk toward the marina across the parking lot. He reports that he then heard a woman talking on her phone who seemed worried about something. Bairaktaris says the woman began to run toward the basketball courts, so he followed.
Upon reaching the courts, he found Doc Kashka lying on the ground with people around him. Ian Chasnow was giving Kashka chest compressions. Bairaktaris, who recently completed his Emergency Medical Technician training, rushed to help with CPR so Chasnow could take a break. Their Supervisor, David Ellis, called 911 and also rushed to help with CPR. After approximately 10 minutes, emergency responders arrived with an AED and began care.
In a citation honoring the men for their actions in saving their colleague, Westport First Selectman James Marpe cited the group’s swift and professional actions displaying “extraordinary composure.”
In the face of a dire situation, Marpe said, Ellis, Chasnow and Bairaktaris saved the life of their co-worker, demonstrating calm, presence of mind and “a high level of excellence” that has made Westport “forever grateful.”
Sponsored by Wells Fargo
Water Safety Hero – Brenda Morataya
Nineteen-year-old Brenda Morataya’s lifeguard training and skills saved a swimmer’s life. Morataya, a second-year business student at UConn-Stamford and aspiring prosecutor, was working as a lifeguard at Cummings Beach in Stamford last August when she pulled a drowning 16-year-old New Jersey resident from the water.
Late in the afternoon of August 6, Morataya noticed a teen bobbing in the water offshore. A story in the Stamford Daily Voice reported that the teen, not a strong swimmer, had been spotted by his younger brother who was swimming toward him when Morataya, not yet sure of any danger, said her training told her to investigate the situation and she entered the water. She soon learned the swimmer was in distress and told the Stamford Daily Voice, “I did what I had to do. I just did what my natural instinct was.”
Morataya reached the boy, who was disoriented and breathing with difficulty due to the amount of water he had swallowed. Morataya reached under the teen’s arms and brought him to shore. Two other lifeguards, Richard Glass and Leann Moy, helped in the rescue. The teen was rushed to Stamford Hospital where he received care and has since recovered.
Sponsored by Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP
Community Resilience Hero – City of Norwalk
The City of Norwalk has done an outstanding job creating multiple programs to better support its citizens and infrastructure in preparedness, response, and recovery – key milestones in the disaster cycle. The City’s commitment to building a resilient community has made it a strong and valued partner in the development and implementation of readiness and response programs.
The City of Norwalk was selected as a pilot site for the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project for schoolchildren. The project uses age-appropriate instruction and materials to help elementary school students in grades 3-5 prepare for disasters and share educational information with their families and friends to support family and community preparedness. Students receive a sturdy pillowcase that they decorate and personalize during the program and upon completion are encouraged to take the pillowcase home and build their personal emergency supplies kit.
The City of Norwalk involves all local departments in monthly safety meetings to allow for better preparedness and coordination throughout the community. The City has made great strides to increase volunteerism and community information sharing. The new Emergency Operations Center was the premier site for the Disaster Boot Camp trainings sponsored by the Red Cross in partnership with VolunteerSquare to increase trained volunteer responders for the Red Cross and other area organizations.
The Norwalk Office of Emergency Management and Police Department also maintain a strong presence in social media to push more real-time information to citizens in an emergency. Additionally, the City of Norwalk maintains a Long-Term Recovery Committee since Hurricane Sandy affected the area two years ago and continues to identify and meet individual and community needs.
“The City’s commitment to building a safer, more resilient community and its willingness to work with partners to support this goal makes them an outstanding partner,” said American Red Cross Senior Director of Emergency Services Kristen Binau. “Norwalk is helping ensure a safer future for its residents.”
Spirit of the Red Cross – Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Company 1
The work of Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Company 1 during and after a major fire on Howe Avenue in Shelton last January saved and changed the lives of people living in the multi-unit building. The 150-year old mixed-use building burned to the ground on a freezing winter night.
Echo Hose Captain Mike Plavcan recounted the events of that freezing night when the Shelton firefighters were dispatched near midnight on January 5 for an activated alarm within a mixed occupancy building. Upon arrival, units were alerted to a broken water pipe in the building, but soon after discovered a basement fire in one of the businesses. Heavy smoke billowed out of multiple apartments above the businesses. Multiple occupants were trapped inside the apartments.
A coordinated effort was made by all crewmembers to successfully evacuate a total of 28 residents. Five of those residents were directly rescued and the other 23 were assisted to safety within the first few moments of the rapidly progressing fire, which had spread throughout the walls and all floors of the -old building, speeded by the balloon-frame wood construction.
Shelton Firefighters and many mutual aid firefighters from nearby communities contributed significantly fighting the early morning fire, but the direct actions of the Echo Hose members kept a devastating fire from becoming a tragedy. Plavcan said the quick, decisive and courageous actions of the Echo Hose members were instrumental in the survival of the trapped residents.
Following the massive blaze, the members of the Echo Hose began relief efforts for the victims displaced at the fire. The Howe Avenue Relief Fund was started after the firehouse was inundated with donations of food, clothes, gift cards and money to help the 28 people who were displaced.
Plavcan says the members of the Echo Hose Hook and Ladder “are very grateful to be nominated for this award.” He notes that, while the firefighters see the response as part of their work, they are nevertheless “very grateful to be nominated” for the award. He says the Howe Avenue fire is one that the firefighters will not forget, “not because of how bad the fire was, but because of the tremendous outreach by the community” following the fire.