Five area women were honored at the American Red Cross "Heroes of the Heartland" luncheon conducted Tuesday in Spencer.
Holck and Whitaker were nominated by the Rohan family of Spencer, who lost their son Michael in a drowning accident at the Spencer Family Aquatic Center on June 6, 2012.
Whitaker and Holck, who oversee the pool operation and lifeguard training program on behalf of the Spencer YMCA, were honored for the efforts of the team at the pool that day.
"The local lifeguards were nothing but heroic on the day of his accident and continue to make sure our children are safe. They did CPR and called the ambulance and continued to work on my son until the EMTs were able to get to him and help him get to the hospital" the nomination letter read.
The Rohans' letter continued, "I wish I could nominate every single one of the lifeguards who were there that day, but I cannot. I wish I could take the image of my son's lifeless body from them, but I cannot. I can put some hope in their lives through letting them know that they are each heroes in my mind."
Bob Kirschbaum, local Red Cross representative, told the winners, "Thank you heroes for sharing your stories and enriching our lives. I'm still wiping tears from my eyes."
Kaus was recognized for her teaching gift, serving as a teacher in the Spencer Community School District since 1979. She will retire at the end of the school year.
The Kristy and Patrick Connor family nominated Kaus, who has taught all three of their children.
"I will never forget the last day of the school before summer vacation when she taught my son Sean. He was very quiet and didn't say a word as we left school that day (Not the normal reaction from a first grader when they planning for summer vacation). When we got to the car, Sean broke out in tears. He cried all the way home and for a while when we got home. When I asked what was wrong, he reported that he 'didn't want to leave Mrs. Kaus' first grade class.'"
Schultz is executive director of Respite Angles, an organization she started two years ago to provide caregiver relief to families in Clay, Dickinson and Emmet counties. She received two nominations including one which read: "The organization has more than doubled their respite hours for families, and none of this would be possible without Kelly's passion and drive."
Wanda Palmer, of Estherville, wrote: "Heroes in my mind are people who give of their hearts to help others in their community by making others' lives a little better and create the smiles and friendships that people need to continue on their journey of caring for their loved ones."
Westfall was nominated by her husband, Seth, who shared her seven-year commitment as a volunteer with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. In 2012 she coordinated a local walk for suicide awareness and then began her own non-profit, Yellow Light Foundation -- dedicated to providing services to survivors of suicide loss.
"Does all of this with no pay, strictly volunteer work and her passion for helping others with such a difficult topic is greatly admired," her husband wrote.
"Heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. There are ordinary people right next door. In your back yards," Kirschbaum said.
Isabel Perez, a third grade student at Fairview Elementary, was recognized as the 3-5 grade essay winner in the Red Cross Contest.
Jennifer Meyer, chairperson of the local American Red Cross chapter, challenged those in the room.
"Be a hero everyday," she said, citing several simple ways from offering a smile to brighten a day or helping someone in need, to donating blood, dollars or volunteer hours to the American Red Cross.
"I truly believe it is our calling in life to be a hero," Meyer said. "To be there for others in their time of need."