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Six Ottumwa Area Citizens Honored as Heroes of the Heartland

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The American Red Cross of Central Iowa congratulates the 2016 Ottumwa area Heroes of the Heartland. These outstanding citizens have demonstrated courage, compassion and unselfish character in the eyes of their neighbors and communities. 

Ed Ball (posthumously): The list of accomplishments that Ed Ball achieved throughout his life is impressive. He served 23 years before retiring as a Sergeant Major. He gave many years to his career at John Deere. But, mainly for his devotion to his family and his efforts to make Ottumwa a better place to live. Ed served the needs of not just the black community, but all Ottumwa for many years. He served on the Human Rights Commission and the Diversity Committee at the invitation of the mayor. Ed was instrumental in establishing the International Day Fair. He served on the Foster Care Review Board and Loyalty Day. Ed was also a strong advocate and supporter of the Ottumwa High School JROTC program. Ed was a recipient of the Gene Schultz Community Service Award and received the Governor’s Volunteer Award in 2008. Ed was a true believer in giving back to the community and serving his fellow man. A true gentleman, father and grandfather. Ed was an advocate for all races and creeds. Ed tirelessly worked to improve relations in our community and especially to make the community a better place to live for all, but especially the children of Ottumwa and surrounding communities.

Deb Mitchell: Deb Mitchell’s nominator said, “I have always considered heroes to have one similar trait - an insatiable desire to try to improve the well-being of others. They look for opportunities to help those who are in need.” That describes Deb Mitchell. Deb spends countless hours helping and supporting Habitat for Humanity. She can often be found helping out at Blessing Soup Kitchen. She is either cooking gallons of soup for the kitchen or recruiting and scheduling volunteers to work at the soup kitchen. On Sunday morning, you will find Deb at Faith Baptist Church teaching Sunday school classes or helping with the Women’s Outreach Organization at John Deere Ottumwa Works. In the spring, you will find Deb helping to plant and maintain the United Way community garden. Deb always has a smile on her face, a kind word to say and a willingness to lend a hand for anyone in need. 

Teri Ortgies: Teri is a mild mannered woman who helps others whenever she can. In typical Teri fashion, when contacted and informed that she had been selected as a Hero of the Heartland she said, “Why me? I am honored but not deserving.” Teri stepped forward to help the Ottumwa Library when they needed operating funds. She started the Kiwanis BBQ for the library over 13 years ago. She stepped up to help the children of our community by serving  as the president of the Ottumwa Kiwanis twice, guiding the Kiwanis group to raise funds and sponsor many children's programs in and around Ottumwa. She started the Kids Race as part of Ottumwa's Race for the Cure. She helped to organize and raise funds for Maddy Ross, who had heart surgery in her first month of life, as well as numerous other surgeries before her 1st birthday. Teri has also been a great supporter of Habitat For Humanity and their annual Festival of Trees fundraiser.

Mary Sauter: Mary Sauter is rich in good intensions and little else. Mary, a retired Albia teacher, fills a 7000 square foot warehouse with Christmas gifts for area children every year. Mary spends almost $10,000 of her own money and another $20,000 she earns working concessions stands at Albia athletic events and tutoring students. Mary devotes her money, time and energy to help provide Christmas toys and clothes for hundreds of kids. She has been doing it for nearly a quarter century. She shops year round looking for bargains and sales so she can maximize her buying power and provide to as many children as she can. Mary enlists former students, friends and colleagues to link each gift to just the right child. Albia truly has a Christmas angel that works year round. Mary believes there is no limit to what you can do if you don’t mind who gets the credit. But, for today we giving Mary credit for all she does.

Erin Harris and Candy Breon: On the afternoon of January 23, 2015, Randy Anderson, an avid runner, went for a routine run down Court Street. The next thing Randy remembers is waking up in the hospital several days later after having quadruple bypass surgery. When Randy's wife thanked the cardio team, the cardiothoracic surgeon told her that he didn’t save Randy's life; the people who administered CPR on Court Street had. Erin Harris was driving along Court Street when she noticed a jogger lying on the sidewalk. Erin instinctively knew something was wrong. She immediately put her car into park, jumped out leaving the door wide open and raced to the aid of the fallen jogger. About the same time, Candy Breon was driving on Court Street when she saw the commotion on the sidewalk and spotted Randy on the ground. Candy, who is an EMT with Keokuk County Ambulance, immediately began CPR and continued until the ambulance arrived and Randy was taken by helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. Randy Anderson did not know the two people who were responsible for saving his life, but the three were eventually able to meet in an emotional reunion after Randy’s recovery. All three agree that God put them there at that exact moment in time for a reason. 

The Heroes of the Heartland breakfast is the primary fundraiser for the Red Cross and was held at the Ottumwa Bridge View Center.

The work of the Red Cross is made possible by the generosity of the American public. You can help people affected by disasters big and small by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables us to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters. You can donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your donation helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters.

American Red Cross in Iowa Celebrating a Century of Service in 2016

The Red Cross in Iowa will be celebrating its Century of service through a variety of events and campaigns that honor the contributions of the Red Cross and its volunteers and build the foundation for another 100 years of service in Iowa. The Red Cross would like to thank Nationwide for stepping up to ensure a sustainable, long-term future for Red Cross service in Iowa by committing its support as a Centennial Partner. Find out more at

To see photos from the event, click here.