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Red Cross Selects Hometown Hero Award Recipients

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Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

Pueblo, CO, Jan. 22, 2015 -- The American Red Cross recognizes that heroes come in all shapes and sizes and that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.  At the annual Pueblo Hometown Heroes Dinner that will be held at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center in Pueblo Feb. 26, those heroes will be recognized for their significant contribution to the community or to the lives of others.

 Humanitarian Hero - Burnie Zercher

In recognition of his humanitarian work in improving the lives of his fellow citizens through his work with the American Red Cross, EPIC literacy initiative, Pueblo 43 Rotary Club, Boy Scouts of America.

As a longtime resident of Colorado, he is owner of Industrial Constructors/Managers, Inc. Zercher has been involved with Pueblo Rotary 43 since 1986, and served as president in 1994-95.  He served as Rotary District Governor for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico in 1997.  He became a board member of the Red Cross Pikes Peak Chapter in 2006 and became the chairman in 2012.  Additionally, Zercher has volunteered for 14 years in the Pueblo schools and is the chairman of Executives Partnering to Invest in Children-Pueblo (EPIC).

Military Hero - Dr. Graham Hoffman

Dr. Hoffman, inspired by the events of 9/11 and the Iraq War, enlisted in the military with the goal of supporting soldiers suffering from PTSD. He served four tours in Iraq, and his response was notable not only for his compassion for his fellow service members, but also for the Iraqis he encountered.  He returned and now works with veterans in the Veterans Affairs hospitals.  He has served the state of Colorado as a psychiatrist for more than 25 years.

First Responder Hero - Justin Hunter

Capt. Justin Hunter, city of Pueblo Fire Department, was on his way home from a funeral for a fellow firefighter when he saw that a car had crashed into an electrical substation, broken two large power poles in half, and caught on fire. He and another person, John Volk, went to the aid of the driver and were able to force the door open and free him.  Hunter was recognized as the October Pueblo City Employee of the Month.

Adult Hero -- John Volk

John Volk was on his way home when he saw that a car had crashed into an electrical substation and was on fire. He went into action quickly and working with off-duty Pueblo Fireman Justin Hunter, went to the aid of the driver. Together, Volk and Hunter were able to force open the door and free the driver from the burning vehicle. 

Community Service Partner -- Pueblo Community College

Pueblo Community College has partnered with St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and created a state-of-the-art simulation training center for students studying in the Public Safety and Health Professions department.  One of the top three simulation training environments in the U.S., the curriculum includes nursing processes, infection control, decision making and leadership skills.  The surgical technology lab allows students to receive hands-on learning, and a nearby house permits law enforcement, fire science and EMT students to simulate events which begin in a home and involve transport.  Additionally, hospital personnel can receive training in the center, ensuring that their skills remain sharp.

Community Service Hero – Colonel, U.S.A.F.(Ret.) R. J. Schultz

After graduating from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1954, Col. Schultz joined the Air Force and served both domestically and overseas.  His first tour in Viet Nam began in 1965, during which he treated the wounded seven days a week for several years.  He was deployed in 1990 during the first Gulf War.  A Chief Flight Surgeon, Col. Schultz has 2500 hours of flying time logged, of which 223 hours are during combat.  After his retirement in 1995, Col. Schultz made himself indispensable to Pueblo.  He has helped source historical aircraft as a volunteer at the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, assisted American Legion Post #2 with events, coordinated military organization activities in the county as a member of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee and been an essential part of the rejuvenation of the Pueblo Veterans Day Parade.  He is a past president of the Air Force Association Mel Harmon Chapter, which won Outstanding AFA Unit at the national level, twice, under his leadership, and is involved with activities for veterans at local nursing homes and Veterans Affairs facilities.

Youth Hero -- Jace Martellaro

Age does not determine the ability to be a hero.  After his father was impaled on a latch bar in a horse trailer after the horse he was loading was spooked, Jace stabilized his father, loaded the horse, and managed the scene until EMTs arrived.  He applied the first aid lessons he learned in Boy Scouts, including performing a body check and keeping pressure on the wound to prevent further bleeding.

Animal Hero -- Koa, Pueblo County Sheriff's Office, K9 Officer

Koa, a narcotic-certified K-9 partner, assisted in the search of a vehicle pulled over for speeding just south of Pueblo.  With her help, 7.5 pounds of methamphetamine was found in the car, at a street value of approximately $400,000.  Koa has been working with her human partner, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Bernal, for more than two years.  She is a Belgian Malinois. 

First Responder Organization Hero -- City of Pueblo Police Department

June 23, 2014, 14 flights were diverted to Pueblo between 8 and 10 p.m. due to bad weather in Denver, and the Police Department sprang into action.  Despite a lack of available hotel rooms in Pueblo, the police were able to partner with CSU-Pueblo and transport many of the 170 passengers to the dorms for the night.  Econo Lodge in Pueblo West sheltered several families with small children.

The annual Pueblo Hometown Heroes Dinner honors a longstanding tradition of heroism in the community by recognizing local individuals and organizations that have made a positive difference. The 2015 Pueblo Hometown Heroes Dinner will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb.26 2015 at the Pueblo Sangre de Cristo Arts Center. Anyone interested in attending or sponsoring this event please contact Tom Gonzalez at 719-785-2701 or