For the seventh consecutive year, the Sonoma and Mendocino Counties chapter of the American Red Cross is honoring a group of 10 local citizens as Real Heroes among us. Continuing our own informal tradition, the North Bay Report has prepared these profiles of this year's honorees in two categories.
Good Samaritan, Youth:
It started as a Girl Scout assignment, but Jackie Andreucci’s "backpacks for the homeless" project turned into something bigger.
In this picture, taken outside the Redwood Gospel Mission near downtown Santa Rosa, Jackie Andreuecci (left) and Chops staff member Diana Curtin deliver a backpack to a man who identified himself just as "Olie."
Suzy Melvin loves her animals. That’s why she’s made a special effort to help low-income senior citizens keep their pets.
Melvin's Silver Paws program operates in partnership with the Animal Shelter League at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.
These are the other 8 award-winning heroes, and summaries of their stories:
Good Samaritan, Adult: Kevin Smith was driving on Highway 101 when he saw a tractor truck pulling a 38 foot cargo trailer drift off the road, proceed down an embankment and hit a 70’ tall eucalyptus tree. As the truck burst into flames, without hesitation or concern for his own safety, he stopped his car, ran to the truck and found the driver in flames. Smith pulled the man out through burning diesel fuel, rolled him on the ground and used his hands to put out the flames. Smith suffered smoke inhalation and burns to his hands and legs but refused medical treatment, choosing to stay with the victim. Smith is from Ukiah.
Good Samaritan, Senior: After working with high-risk children for 30 years in treatment centers and as a behavioral consultant, Lia Rowley envisioned a village for these children, to keep them safe and help them. When 12-year-old Georgia Moses, a girl Lia knew, was murdered, Rowley was compelled to make her vision of a village a reality. Today, she runs The Children’s Village, a community of family-style homes that currently houses 24 foster children and four “grandparents.” The Children's Village is in Santa Rosa.
Law Enforcement: Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman is a professional who has responded beyond the call of duty for more than 20 years, at times, risking his own life to save another’s. One afternoon in August, Sheriff Allman came upon an automobile engulfed in flames. He was able to pull a woman from the car, tending to her until help arrived, even as the area surrounding the wreckage caught fire and the scene became chaotic. Unfortunately, the woman succumbed to her injuries days later and Sheriff Allman suffered second degree burns on both of his hands. Sheriff Allman is based in Ukiah.
Education: “Whatever you do, try your hardest,” is the motto that Ann Butler lives by and instills in her students. Nurturing and guiding her students, the Montgomery High School and Santa Rosa Junior College English teacher is committed to helping students at all levels prepare and succeed in college and in life. One life-changing project she instituted was journal writing for underachieving students that resulted in “Take a Walk in Our Shoes: Stories from the Fifties Hall,” a powerful and unflinching book of stories that include such challenges as physical abuse, drug use, rape and unwanted pregnancy. Her commitment has resulted in students who were expected to fail becoming enthusiastic and hopeful, and successfully graduating from high school. Butler teaches in Santa Rosa.
Medical: Kaiser physician Dr. Joshua Weil continuously puts those in need before himself. He has traveled to places including Sri Lanka, Louisiana and Haiti in time of disaster to offer medical aid. Most recently, he left his vacation in Mexico to assist in efforts to set up a clinic in the epicenter of the Haiti earthquake. Though conditions were harsh, he saw 40-75 patients a day, helping survivors in whatever way he could. Dr. Weil works at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa.
Military: Marine Lance Corporal Hubert William Perkins Jr., also known as “Billy,” was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan riding in a Cougar vehicle. Suddenly the 17-ton vehicle hit a concealed bomb, shattering Perkins’ left foot and seriously injuring both lower legs. None of the other five Marines with him was hurt. Because the Cougar took the hit first, it prevented any Humvees traveling behind them from being completely blown up. Although doctors wanted to amputate his leg, Perkins is now walking with the use of a cane and external fixator. He has no regrets, speaking with gratitude of his help for the Afghani people, as well as his fellow Marines. Perkins grew up in Santa Rosa and lives in Rohnert Park.
Rescue Professional: Helicopter pilot Paul Bradley, Deputy Wade Borges and paramedic Scott Freedman face unexpected challenges and risks when they’re called on to help. The three were dispatched to a vague location on San Pablo Bay where two boaters and an 18-month old child were being pulled out to sea. With winds blowing more than 45 miles per hour and the boat rapidly sinking, Bradley, Borges and Freedman worked quickly as a team to find the boat, facilitate a 100-foot-long-line rescue, and lift the child and adults to safety. The boat sank 5 minutes later. The three rescue professionals work out of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department in Santa Rosa. Paramedic Freeman's full-time job is as Fire Captain in Novato. Deputy Borges serves on the Santa Rosa Police Department.
Environment: Longtime community activist Ann Hancock has been dedicated to making a significant, positive difference in climate protection since 1997 when she started Sustainable Sonoma County, and, in 2001, the Climate Protection Campaign. Through her efforts and those she inspires, Ann has helped lead Sonoma County in setting eight national precedents. She persuaded Sonoma’s 10 municipalities to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and 100% have pledged to do so. She works regional and nationally to help people and institutions implement sustainability throughout their communities. Hancock lives in the West County area.
A committee of community leaders chose these Heroes. They were:
_ Vince Albano, CEO, Mary’s Pizza Shack
_ Barry Friedman, Vice President, Friedman’s Home Improvement
_ Nick Frey, President of Sonoma County Winegrape Commission
_ Kay Marquet, Executive Director, Chop’s Teen Club
_ Tim Campbell, Unit Coordinator, Medical Reserve Corps, California Tribal Nations Emergency Management Council
_ Sharon Root, Owner, Double Eagle Financial
_ Diana Lane, Director of Respiratory Care, Ukiah Valley Medical Center
_ Nancy Dougherty, Founder, Teen Counseling Project of Sonoma County.