— Members of the American Red Cross Wayne/Pike chapter, recently joined together to recognize those who have volunteered to help others through challenging times.

Executive Director of the Wayne/Pike Chapter, Jim Rienhardt said it is because of how individuals, corporations, foundations and non-profit organizations offer to help, that the American Red Cross is able to fulfill its mission.

When hurricane Sandy left hundreds of thousands in the dark last October, board member Marita Wenner was called upon by the American Red Cross's national office to help direct operations.

In addition, more recently, she was in Oklahoma helping after the tornados that left several dead and caused billions of dollars in damage.
Wenner said she couldn't think of anything she would rather do with her life, then working for the Red Cross because it is the "most worthwhile organization, we are the greatest humanitarian organization in the world."

Part of what makes the Red Cross so remarkable, she said, is that it is able to pull together a multi-million dollar operation in a matter of a day and a half. When she was in Oklahoma, 98 percent of the people working were volunteers. There were over 1,100 volunteers working under Wenner, to which she added, "it's just amazing the stuff that we can do with the power of volunteers and with the power of donating money, it's remarkable."

Chairperson, Joann Hudak, reflected on the natural disasters that people have more recently experienced, to which she said, it is the reaction of the American Red Cross and the quick response that, "exemplifies the mission of our organization."

Following hurricane Sandy, the Meagher Insurance Agency coordinated efforts to collect supplies that were transported to those in need. Consequently, the agency was presented with a Community Partnership Award.

Donna Meglio accepted the award on behalf of the agency and she spoke of what it was like delivering the resources to the Jersey Shore. Seeing the devastation first-hand, she said was, "unbelievable." People at the shore, she said, were so grateful that their response was reward in itself.

Top Notch Distributor Inc. received a Community Partnership Award because of their successful coordination of "Stuff a Truck," a multi-county community outreach project created because of hurricane Sandy.

The company provided boxes and other supplies, as well as helped to transport items.

With several Community Partnerships recognized at the event, Rienhardt said it shows the character of the region because of the number who did what they could in the time of need.

Fox Ledge Spring Water took supplies to the Jersey Shore and Al Alessi said the company is proud to help and the company is always ready and willing, when the need arises.

Leeward Construction Inc. was recognized as a Community Partner for providing support and assistance in New York and New Jersey following hurricane Sandy. The company donated tractor trailers and drivers to help transport supplies.

Through an annual sailing event, Paupack Sailing Club donates the funds to the Red Cross which is then used to for the Red Cross's emergency preparedness workshops. For this, the club received the Community Partnership Award.

The United Way of Pike County also received the Community Partnership Award because of its financial contributions that the American Red Cross used for emergency preparedness workshops that helped children and senior citizens in Pike County.

On behalf of the United Way of Pike County, Patrick Kiesendahl accepted the award. He said working with the Red Cross is great because the organizations are able to complement each other.

The United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties received the Community Partnership Award for giving a grant to the American Red Cross that was used for additional emergency preparedness workshops.

The Office and Volunteer Manager for the American Red Cross, Wayne/Pike Chapter, Linda Barney was very surprised to receive the Spirit of Excellence Award. Barney started her position last year. Hudak said Barney's superior commitment to the organization and positive examples, "serves as inspirations to others and epitomizes the qualities essential to achieving excellence."

Bill Lather and Gordy Potratz received the Extraordinary Personal Action Award for stepping up to save a student from Wallenpaupack Area High School last year, after she was trapped in her car following an accident. The men took the girl from the car, just before flames overtook the vehicle and shot as high as the cable lines.

A volunteer of the year, Mikki Uzupes was recognized for significantly giving back to the community through her continued service. A new board member, Uzupes is the secretary of the chapter as well as chairperson of the board's marketing and outreach committee. Hudak said Uzupes has been instrumental in increasing community awareness for the Wayne/Pike Red Cross chapters; she has also donated countless hours by working with the electronic and print media.

Since joining the board, Uzupes noted the different situations the organization has had to work through.

But through the disasters and emergences, she said you "realize how important the Red Cross is. How much comfort it brings."

Humbled to be a part of the Red Cross, she said, "with the kind of worldwide footprint that this organization has, to be honored by this organization literally leaves me speechless."

With over 50 years of volunteerism with the Red Cross, 93-year-old Eleanor Ahearn of Hemlock Farms was also recognized as Volunteer of the Year. Rienhardt saluted Ahearn for continuously challenging the Red Cross staff and forcing them to raise the bar. Ahearn said her time volunteering has been a "sentimental journey."

The recognition, she said, is wonderful but, "the real gift is giving and it's been a wonderful journey."