The American Red Cross honored eight heroes and presented a Community Leadership Award at the Eighth Annual Red Cross Heroes Breakfast on Thursday, Sept. 15, from 7:30 to 9 a.m., at the Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club at PNC Park on the North Shore.
WPXI-TV sportscaster Bill Phillips served as the emcee. In addition to honoring this year’s heroes, the Red Cross presented a Community Leadership Award to Lisa C. Epps, fire inspector, with the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire.
The event, a fundraiser for the American Red Cross of Southwestern Pennsylvania, is designed to honor everyday heroes in eight categories and to recognize an outstanding community leader. The heroes were selected by an independent panel of media representatives from nominations received from the public. The 2016 heroes include:
1. Educator Hero: Robert M. Jones, Jr., President of Brothers and Sisters Emerging (B.A.S.E) and a Co-founder of Garfield Youth Sports
2. Firefighter Hero: Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Firefighters Lt. James O’Toole, Nathan Oliver, Benjamin Sovyak and Edward Podgorski
3. Good Samaritan Hero: Ian M. Heffernan, Customer Service Manager, Hermitage Wal-Mart Store
4. Medical Professional Hero: James S. Withers, M.D., FACP, Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net
5. Military Hero: M. Sgt. James P. Wilfrom, Jr., USMC
6. Professional Responder Hero: Officer Kevin Cragle, Franklin Township, Beaver County
7. Youth Hero: Jaimere Washington, City of Pittsburgh
8. Lifetime Commitment to the Red Cross: Carol L. Adams, ALCOSAN, and Red Cross Volunteer
Educator Hero, Robert M. Jones, Jr. – Bob Jones is President and CEO of Brothers and Sisters Emerging (B.A.S.E.), a non-profit organization formed to serve as the umbrella organization of Garfield Youth Sports (G.Y.S) which has been in existence for over 19 years. The mission of B.A.S.E. is to develop thriving African-American and other youth and their families in Garfield and surrounding at-risk neighborhoods to find and take advantage of opportunities available to them. The B.A.S.E. vision is that, through sports, mentoring, advocacy, and other activities, B.A.S.E. will assist youth and their families in achieving successful educational performance, acquire appropriate social and emotional skills, and attain a solid economic future. A co-founder of Garfield Youth Sports, Bob is a life-long resident of the Garfield community. Bob graduated from Peabody High School in 1987. He attended Waynesburg College (Waynesburg University), where he earned a B.A. in Public Service Administration. He played football in high school and college. Bob serves a volunteer football coach for the Garfield Gators and is an inspiring mentor and educator to youth both on and off the football field.
Medical Professional Hero, James S. Withers, M.D., FACP – Dr. Jim Withers is founder and medical director of Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net. What began in 1992 as an educational experience for medical school students quickly grew into an award-winning, innovative, medical and social service outreach program for the unsheltered homeless population in Allegheny County. Since its founding, Operation Safety Net has reached approximately 10,000 homeless individuals with more than 68,000 visits where they live – in camps along riverbanks, in alleyways, or beneath bridges and highway overpasses – and has successfully helped more than 1,200 individuals who were once homeless to find homes of their own. In doing so, Operation Safety Net not only assists with providing health care and affordable housing, but also offers this vulnerable population hope, dignity, and a sense of community. Operation Safety Net is part of Pittsburgh Mercy and Trinity Health, serving in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy.
Military Hero, M. Sgt. James P. Wilfrom, Jr., USMC – On the afternoon of June 8, 2014, M. Sgt. James P. Wilfrom, Jr. was home on leave, relaxing at his parents’ home in Mt. Oliver. The family heard yelling outside and, when he went out to investigate, Sgt. Wilfrom heard calls for help. Several houses in the neighborhood were on fire. Running towards the fire, he was joined by neighbor Al Scroggins. They approached the home of Loretta Marburger who was trapped inside her smoke-filled home. A few minutes earlier, she smelled smoke and went outside to find her neighbors’ house on fire. She banged on their door to alert them and tried to get a garden house to douse the fire. The flames spread quickly to her home and she went back inside where she became trapped in the smoke-filled kitchen. Sgt. Wilfrom and Mr. Scroggins kicked in her front door and called out for her. They made it through the blinding smoke and heat to reach her in the back of the house. Coaxing her to leave the house, they took her by the arms and pulled her through the house to the front door where they collapsed in the front yard. In a just a few minutes, her house was engulfed in flames. She credits them both with saving her life. For Sgt. Wilfrom, this was the second time he had performed a heroic deed. In 1995 while stationed overseas, he saved several boys from drowning and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his bravery. When his commanding officer heard of Mrs. Marburger’s rescue, he put Sgt. Wilfrom in for a second Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Sgt. Wilfrom is only the third person to receive the medal twice.
Lifetime Commitment to the Red Cross - Carol L. Adams joined the Red Cross as a volunteer in 2002. Her reasons for becoming involved with the Red Cross, however, were not the usual volunteer’s motivations. Carol, a senior systems analyst, disaster recovery/business continuity coordinator with Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN), was interested in learning how to ensure employees would be prepared in the event of a disaster. She learned that and much more in the 14 years since she became a volunteer. Having served as a disaster volunteer and instructor, disaster preparedness and outreach volunteer, and government liaison among other duties, Carol has enjoyed a rich and fulfilling experience with the Red Cross. She invited the Red Cross to participate in ALCOSAN’s award-winning Annual Open House to showcase emergency preparedness and she continues to look for opportunities to engage the community with the Red Cross. She has many memorable volunteer experiences, among which is her service with Pennsylvania Emergency Management during the 2015 papal visit to Philadelphia. Carol describes the Lifetime Commitment to the Red Cross Hero Award as “one of those hugs that came back to me that – in a million years – I never would have expected.”