Award Winners - 2012

Law Enforcement

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Sergeant Donald Pina, Providence

Presented by Webster Bank

Donald Pina is Training Sergeant at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls and is their primary CPR/AED/First Aid Instructor for all staff at the facility. Last January, he had an opportunity to put that experience to the test in an unusual setting.

Driving through Providence on Friday, January 13, Sergeant Pina was stopped at an intersection when he saw a distraught woman calling for help in the middle of the street. Scanning the scene around him to get a sense of what might be happening, Pina expected to encounter a possible domestic dispute. The woman’s car was unattended in the middle of the road. While there other bystanders in the area, no one was helping the woman.

Pina exited his vehicle and approached the woman, finding her to be holding a small, unconscious child. He quickly went into action, taking the child from the woman’s arms and checking her “ABCs” - Airway, Breathing and Circulation – the first step in CPR and First Aid procedures. She had no pulse and was not breathing.

Pina began a protocol of rescue breaths, back blows and CPR on the child. Soon, the child was breathing and shortly thereafter an ambulance arrived. The child was transported to the hospital. She was diagnosed as having suffered a seizure caused by a high fever.

Jilliana, the young girl Sergeant Pina helped, turned two years old a month after the incident on North Main Street. That Friday the 13th in January turned out to be a lucky day for little Jilliana and her family.

Geoff Weston, Director of Staff Development at the Wyatt Detention Facility, nominated Pina for this award. He said that Pina was “excited to have been in a position to use his training to help.”

Military/Good Samaritan

military award
SGT Christopher Anderson, SSGT Zachary Davis, 1SGT Jackie Hazley, SSGT Christopher Ventura, CWO Gerald Sciamacco, Leah Kasper, George Truman

Presented by NewportFed

When long-time Rhode Island National Guard civilian employee Joe Mercurio collapsed one day on the job at the Command Readiness Center, he was fortunate that several people were nearby to help. When Mercurio first collapsed, his fellow civilian employee, George Truman, First Sergeant Jackie Hazley and Sergeant Christopher Anderson went into action. They rolled Mercurio on to his back and secured his head. Chief Warrant Officer Gerald Sciamacco called 911 then helped Hazley to secure the scene while awaiting emergency medical personnel.

Civilian Nurse Leah Kasper came on the scene, checked Mercurio’s breathing and pulse and found none. Kasper and Staff Sergeant Christopher Ventura began CPR, while Staff Sergeant Zachary Davis elevated Mercurio’s fee. Sergeant Anderson retrieved an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and worked with Kasper to apply the AED pads. The AED monitored Mercurio’s condition and accordingly administered two shocks. Those two shocks, combined with more than nine minutes of CPR kept Mercurio alive before medical personnel arrived on the scene.

Military (In Memoriam)

Lance Cpl Abraham Tarwoe, Providence

Presented by Alex and Ani

Abraham Tarwoe was born in Liberia, but political turmoil there led him to flee the country in 1998, at the age of 12. He came to the U.S., staying with relatives in Providence. Tarwoe moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he lived with relatives while attending high school. He was an accomplished athlete who played football for Westside High School. While playing football, Tarwoe met another young man who would later become a fellow Marine. Corporal Michael Wiles, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, told a Marine Forces Africa reporter that Tarwoe was “an absolute beast, a monster on the field. He ran with grace and elegance.” Wiles saw him as a formidable opponent. Off the field, Tarwoe loved spending time with friends and family and watching soccer and football.

Abraham Tarwoe returned to Providence after graduating high school, where he again lived with his Uncle, John Kar. He reconnected with old friends who had since joined the Marines and the same path appealed to him. Kar told the Marine Forces Africa reporter, “Abraham’s greatest joy was being a Marine and being a man who loved his family.”

When Tarwoe got to his first duty station at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he was reunited with his old football rival, Corporal Wiles. Wiles told the Marines Africa Forces reporter, “We just grew closer together because neither of us had family in North Carolina; it was just me and my wife and he and his wife and son.” Wiles said that Tarwoe loved the Marine Corps and that they both planned on re-enlisting together, hoping to take their families to Okinawa.

When Tarwoe deployed to Afghanistan, he spoke to Corporal Wiles by phone, but the two were not able to meet while deployed. Wiles was home in North Carolina when he learned Tarwoe had died while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province.

Hundreds of family members, friends and comrades attended Tarwoe’s funeral in Liberia. His Uncle summed up the family’s pride in Tarwoe’s service. “His service has brought great honor to our family. I know he died for the right cause. I know he knew it, and I know he is in a better place.”

Abraham Tarwoe is survived by many family members, including his wife, Juah, and their son, A.J.

Water Safety

regan jeffrey
Regan Jeffrey, East Providence

Presented by American Red Cross

Lifeguard Regan Jeffrey was among the staff on duty at the East Providence Boys and Girls Club swimming pool one busy July day. Among the 61 children at the pool was 11 year-old Joshua Adewysi, who was swimming along the bottom in the deep end of the pool when he began to panic.

Jeffrey, a champion swimmer in High School, was carefully watching the pool and noticed the change in Joshua’s behavior. Other children in the pool noticed as well and began to “freak out,” Jeffrey told the Providence Journal.

He quickly went into action, grabbing his rescue tube, entering the pool and diving down 10 feet to retrieve Joshua from the bottom. With the unconscious boy safely out of the pool, the Red Cross trained Lifeguard quickly directed a co-worker to call 911 and began CPR on Joshua. Soon, the boy was breathing. Joshua was rushed to the hospital and has since recovered.

It was a “huge sigh of relief” to see Joshua breathe again, Jeffrey told WPRI2 News, adding that it “was a great feeling and how everything worked the way it was supposed to go.”

Regan Jeffrey’s proud mother told WPRI, “He was a swim champion in High School and had quite a career in swim, but of all the victories and everything else we talked about, this has to be the most important one that he could ever have.”

For his part, Jeffrey says he is “honored and humbled” to be recognized as a hero. Asked to define a hero, he quoted Tom Brokaw: “Heroes are people who rise to the occasion and slip away quietly.”


LT Scott Gavitt and Jr FF Scott Gavitt, Jr., Exeter

Presented by Webster Bank

Early in the morning hours of July 22, Dan Lennon was driving on Mail Road in Exeter when he swerved to avoid an animal in the road. His car struck a bridge abutment and became airborne, landing upside down at the bottom of an embankment and catching fire.

Having been alerted to the accident, Exeter Volunteer Fire Department issued a dispatch for help. Firefighters Lt. Scott Gavitt and Junior Firefighter Scott Gavitt, Jr. were among the first to respond, coming directly from their nearby home.

At the scene, they found the vehicle burning and filled with smoke. Lennon was unconscious in the vehicle. Working in the dark and without much of the specialized equipment that could help or protect them yet on the scene, the Gavitts – father and son – worked to free Lennon from the burning vehicle.

Using hand-held fire extinguishers they carried with them, the Gavitts fought the fire and worked with another colleague to break a window on the vehicle and ex-tract Lennon.

Dan Lennon was treated for a concussion after the accident. In an interview with Southern Rhode Island Newspapers, he said he was grateful to the men who saved his life. “The incredible thing is they’re volunteers. It’s a miracle, really. It’s made me think of doing things for other people – paying it forward.”

Lt. Gavitt has been a Firefighter for many years. He told the newspaper this was his first time saving a person’s life. Scott Gavitt, Jr. is 14 years old and a student at Exeter-West Greenwich High School and appears to be following in his father’s footsteps. Gavitt, Sr.’s mother told the newspaper that he has been a Firefighter since the age of 14 as well.

Community Impact – Corporate

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Cornerstone Corporation, Pawtucket

Presented by Cox Media

In the early morning hours of August 13, the American Red Cross was called to help more than 100 elderly and disabled residents displaced by a fire at the Slater House apartment building in Pawtucket.

An electrical fire in commercial space resulted in a power shutdown in the building. The property management company, Cornerstone Corporation, relocated all the residents to temporary space in another building where the Red Cross provided food and drinks and the safety of the building was assessed.

It soon became clear the building would be without power for several days and residents would need other lodging. Cornerstone’s maintenance team accompanied small groups of residents in trips back to Slater House so they could retrieve valuables and other necessities from their apartments. The company then worked to place any residents without housing into hotels and to make sure they had food.

Red Cross Senior Emergency Services Director Liz McDonald cited Cornerstone for their above-and-beyond response to the fire. “Most property managers/owners would not take on such a financial burden,” McDonald said. “In 20 years of responding to fires of this nature, I have never seen a company so committed to making sure that all of their residents’ needs were taken care of.”

Stacy Vento, of Cornerstone Corporation, said they had never dealt with anything of this scope before and hopes they don’t have to again, “but of course would do the same thing if there was a crisis.”

Community Impact

Peter Gaynor, Director, Providence Emergency Management Agency, Providence

Presented by CVS Caremark

Peter Gaynor has created a state-of-the-art emergency operations center in the City of Providence and professionalized operations at the Providence Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).

Under Gaynor’s leadership, PEMA has conducted numerous emergency response drills and full-scale exercises and has overseen training of more than 200 community volunteers.

Gaynor was nominated for this award by Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré, who cited Gaynor’s creation of public-private partnerships with ProvPort, Raytheon, Brown University, RI Economic Development Corporation, RI Department of Environmental Management, RI Network of Educational Technology, RI Disaster Medical Assistance Team, LifeSpan, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and the RI Broadcasters Association. Paré noted that Gaynor has “formed strong working partnerships with local, state and federal public safety agencies.”

Gaynor’s efforts have resulted in Providence becoming the first municipality in the United States to achieve national accreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program, which recognizes that PEMA and the Office of Homeland Security has met the “highest professional standards in the field of emergency management and serves as a national model,” Paré said.

Commissioner Paré said Gaynor has developed a comprehensive system to deal with both natural and human-caused disasters. He highlighted Gaynor’s “role in coordinating the city’s prevention, preparation and recovery efforts concerning Hurricane Irene,” adding that “First responders were well trained and prepared and the Providence community was well-informed and took the necessary precautions to minimize the effects” of Irene.

Gaynor expressed surprise at his nomination and said he was honored. He does not consider himself a hero and said he is “just doing his job.”

American Red Cross Disaster Volunteers

“I didn't know what I was going to do, where I was going to go. Now at least I have somewhere to start. You don’t know how much this means—thank God for you guys.”

That comment from a woman who fled her burning apartment building on a freezing January night stuck with one of a team of Red Cross volunteers who left their warm houses that night to provide shelter and comfort on the scene in a bus-sized Emergency Response Vehicle. “We’re there to help people feel some kind of normal again,” the volunteer said. “To know that you had a part in that is a great feeling.”

In Rhode Island last year, spring floods, Tropical Storm Irene and an historic October snowstorm left many people in need of feeling some kind of normal again. Red Cross DAT volunteers responded, managing shelters; distributing food and clean-up supplies; assessing damage; and running canteens for relief workers. Red Cross DAT volunteers in Rhode Island responded to 175 local incidents last year, helping 460 families. In addition to helping at home, some volunteers deployed to disaster operations in other states.

“American Red Cross disaster volunteers worked tirelessly in 2011,” said American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region CEO Mario Bruno. “They truly make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.”

Red Cross DAT volunteers also participate in Community Disaster Education programs, represent the Red Cross at community events, attend monthly meetings and take part in ongoing training. “Volunteering with the American Red Cross is a special commitment to the health and safety of our community,” Mario Bruno said. “Our volunteers demonstrate that commitment through in above-and-beyond service to neighbors every single day of the year.”