By WARREN DILLAWAY - email@example.com
Area civic, business and political leaders gathered early Tuesday morning to honor area citizens who have put themselves in harms way for the sake of others.
The American Red Cross Ashtabula County Chapter held the 11th Community Heroes Breakfast at Our Lady of Peace Community Center.
“2013 was a year we witnessed ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said RCACC Board President Tim Moga during opening remarks.
Moga was also one of 11 people who received special awards at the breakfast.
The local chapter of the Red Cross assisted 84 people in 31 events during 2013, Moga said. He said the organization also sent more than 100 messages to service men and women throughout the world last year.
Moga said the volunteers are the backbone of the Red Cross. Executive director Renee Palagyi is the only paid employee of the organization.
“Without volunteers there would be no Red Cross,” Moga said. He said the organization is also funded by donations with no government funding.
Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci was the main speaker at the event and urged people to become more involved volunteering in their community.
“Any volunteer is a hero in someone else’s life,” Iarocci said. He quoted numerous well-known people, from Mother Teresa to Dick Gregory relating to the importance of volunteering.
“LIfe is never so busy that there is not time to serve...When we volunteer we vote every day on what kind of community we want to live in,” he said.
Palagyi thanked the heroes for their efforts on behalf of those in need and area individuals, businesses and corporations that donate the Red Cross.
“The people of Ashtabula County are incredibly generous,” she said. She said the breakfast is the largest fund raiser of the year and brought in $14,000 this year.
Palagyi said she chose Moga to receive the Director’s Award for his selfless working service on the organization’s board of directors during the last nine years.
Others receiving awards included Community Service Heroes Robert Brecker, a taxi cab driver, who chased down a suspect who had attacked and robbed a woman in Ashtabula; Larry Laurello for his work to help invigorate St. John School and Sharon Bradley for her efforts in helping grow the Polar Bear Plunge to a $100,000 fund raiser for the Special Olympics.
Colton Hinkle and Cory Prine, Medalist winners, were honored for their efforts to help save a man who had fallen into ice during an ice fishing expedition.
Tabitha Seames, 13, received the Youth Hero award for her efforts in helping save the lives of the rest of her family during a house fire.
Education Heroes included Diane Ashley for going above and beyond the call of duty while working with special needs students in the Ashtabula Area City Schools and Amanda Perisa for her work in the Multi Handicap unit of the Conneaut Area City schools.
The final award winners received Distinguished Heroes honors for their selfless work on behalf of others.
Dr. Bartolomeo Giannattasio was honored for performing Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation on Ron Cramer who was running a road race on Memorial Day 2013.
Mary Severino was honored for her on-going commitment to giving 171 units of blood that helped save 500 lives.