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Red Cross Salutes Finger Lakes Volunteers

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The American Red Cross, Finger Lakes Chapter held its annual Volunteer Salute Tuesday, July 26 at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. The Finger Lakes Chapter provides disaster preparedness and response, health and safety services, services to the armed forces, international services and blood services in Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates Counties.

Volunteers were honored for the recognized for the number hours worked over the past year and years of service to the community through the Red Cross. In addition, the following awards were presented: 

Youth Volunteer Award—Rachel Patten, Elmira College
As president of the Elmira College Red Cross Club, Patten has promoted and recruited blood donors, supported on-campus blood drives and raised funds for disaster relief efforts. Under her leadership, members of the Elmira College Red Cross Club recorded over 560 hours of volunteer service

Blood Services Volunteer Award—Dianne Hansen, Himrod
Hansen has sponsored a monthly blood drive which rotates between Himrod and Dundee for more than ten years.

Preparedness, Health & Safety Services Award—Jamie Damoth, Romulus
In addition to serving as Disaster Action Team (DAT) coordinator in Seneca County, Damoth has taken on the role of CPR and First Aid instructor, teaching classes not only in Seneca Falls but as far away as Ithaca.

Disaster Preparedness & Response Services Volunteer Award—Juli Bixby, Williamson
Bixby has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2013, and currently serves as Wayne County Disaster Coordinator, the primary DAT leader for Wayne County and as a mentor of new volunteers.

Good Neighbor Award—Wallin Insurance
Peter Wallin and Wallin Insurance Company support the Home Fire Campaign not only financially, but through volunteering to help install free smoke alarms and provide fire safety information to community residents as part of a campaign to help reduce fire-related deaths and injuries by 25% in five years.

Special Recognition-Gerald Schmitt, Hornell
Schmitt has been instrumental in building the Mentor Program in the Finger Lakes Chapter, helping new volunteers feel connected and learn the skills needed to be a Red Cross disaster responder.

Fund Development Volunteer Award—Benita Nesbitt, Bath
A member of the Finger Lakes Chapter Board of Directors, Nesbitt is also the Chair of the annual Real Heroes Breakfast and brings a group of volunteers to help at the annual Ice Bar in Watkins Glen, spending numerous hours to make sure both events are successful.

Community Service Volunteer Award—William J. Denike, Elmira
Bill Denike has been volunteering as a receptionist at both the Elmira and now the Corning office of the Red Cross since 2003. People will stop by the office on a Wednesday or Thursday just to experience his friendly and welcoming demeanor. Denike also volunteers at blood drives.

Service to the Armed Forces Award—Richard Gonzales, Phelps
A Navy veteran, Gonzales is a member of the Wayne County Services to Armed Forces Committee who has volunteered over 70 hours. Many of those hours have been at the Canandaigua Veterans Hospital, with duties including delivering cards and gifts to veterans at the hospital.

Clara Barton Volunteer Leadership Award—Linda Conway, Painted Post
Conway is the Chair of the Services to Armed Forces Finger Lakes Chapter Advisor Committee, putting many hours into military family salute brunches, stand downs, and the annual Ride for the Red. Conway also helped organize the Bath VA garden project, creating a healing working garden for veterans at the hospital.

The Red Cross invites the public to be a part of the lifesaving work it does and to sign up to volunteer and donate blood. People can go to to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application. To schedule an appointment to donate blood, people should visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Picture captions: 

“Wallin Insurance”: Peter Wallin (5th from left) and staff from Wallin Insurance accept the Good Neighbor Award from Finger Lakes Chapter Executive Brian McConnell (4th from left)

“Award Winners”: Seated: William J. Denike; Standing L-R: James Damoth, Richard Gonzales, Linda Conway, Gerald Schmitt, Juli Bixbi, Benita Nesbitt