Note: This story was submitted by American Red Cross volunteer Sandy Shirey.
The fellowship hall of the Christ Community Wesleyan Church rang with applause as nearly 250 people gathered to honor outstanding individuals and groups in the 11th annual American Red Cross Hometown Heroes event.
Regional administrator Jane Patton noted that the past years have brought us many heroes. “Their professions or their volunteer work have influenced and made life better for each of us in this area,” she said.
Guest Speaker Dr. Tiffany Arnold, assistant professor of instruction and Associate Director of the Appalachian Rural Health Institute at Ohio University, shared insights on the people of Appalachia. Arnold offered to help the audience members understand the Appalachian culture and how we produce so many hometown heroes. “People get bogged down in talking about struggles,” she said. Arnold stressed that the struggles were, and are, real but added, “Without the struggles forced on them, there is no room for people to go above and beyond for their community.”
Community members who nominated this year’s Heroes were seen via video at the event. Those who were honored included: Dr. James Gaskell, Health Care Hero; Clyde Baker, Public Safety Hero; Janis Tysco, Education Hero; Veterans Service Office, Workplace Heroes; Jeff Mullins, Humanitarian Hero; Dr. Arnie LaGraff, Community Hero; Trimble Athletic Complex Improvement Committee, Group Heroes; and Board of Directors, Athens Conservancy, also Group heroes.
A special award was given this year to honor the late Sharon Horel. After more than 30 years as a volunteer, blood donor and blood recipient, Sharon passed away in 2018.
“We are happy to honor the request of the Horel family with the Sharon Horel Memorial Award for one of our own volunteers who exemplifies qualities so admired in Sharon,” Patton said. As a caseworker, Sharon gave direct client assistance for those affected by natural disaster, primarily single family fires in our area.
“Sharon showed compassion to our clients and treated them with dignity,” Patton said. “Whether it was 2 p.m or 2 a.m. chances are it was Sharon who was standing by your side helping you get through one of your most difficult moments in life.”
The award was presented by Robert Horel, Sharon Horel’s husband. The recipient is Rebecca Newman, a highly active disaster volunteer. She has gone on several deployments to help people in disasters nationally, and is a supervisor in American Red Cross services to families hit by disasters locally.
Noting that Rebecca exemplifies many of the characteristics Red Cross volunteers admired in the late Sharon Horel, Jane Patton added, “Rebecca Newman emerges as a leader in all situations.”