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Five honored by Red Cross

SPRINGFIELD Five individuals were recognized for their outstanding service to the community through the American Red Cross.

On Sept. 26, the American Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter hosted its 100th Annual Meeting and celebrated a "Century of Service and Hope" at the Springfield Country Club.

Pioneer Valley Chapter Director of Disaster Services Brenda Brouillette of Palmer was presented with the first ever Dorothy F. D'Ambrosio Award for Outstanding Disaster Service. Named in memory of long-time Red Cross volunteer, Dottie D'Ambrosio, the award is meant to honor a disaster services leader (staff or volunteer) who exemplifies the type of dedication, commitment, humility and kindness to the important disaster relief mission of the American Red Cross in communities.

D'Ambrosio had a 60-year career as a Red Cross volunteer, providing humanitarian aid at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 her last national assignment as a Red Cross volunteer.

"This is a brand new award that we actually developed this year to honor D'Ambrosio and her commitment to the chapter. The idea was to be able to select someone in disaster services that exemplified [her commitment]," Paige Thayer, director of Chapter Support said. She added that while she personally did not know D'Ambrosio, "she was quite the woman," from what she understands.

D'Ambrosio's last national assignment was Brouillette's first.

She began her Red Cross service on the day of Sept. 11 leaving behind her a successful career in the hospitality industry. Brouillette began as a volunteer and quickly learned what it would take to put her skills to work as Disaster Director for the Pioneer Valley Chapter.

During her time with the Chapter, Brouillette has grown the disaster volunteer base from a core group of less than a dozen people to now well over 100 active in the ranks of local, regional and national disaster response volunteers. She has earned the respect of her volunteers, emergency responders and managers throughout the region.

"She recruited more than 10 times the number of volunteers we had on the day she started," Thayer said. "She really cares about what they do. Our volunteers get called often because they've gone through all the appropriate training to make them excellent local respondents, regional and national."

An award for outstanding managerial service was presented to staff member, June E. Opsitnick of Granby in recognition of her extraordinary service to the chapter. Opsitnick is director of Accounting for the Pioneer Valley Chapter, and is nearing a decade of service to the American Red Cross and their community. This award is a prestigious acknowledgment of her remarkable contributions to the work of the Red Cross. She was presented with the Tiffany Employee Excellence Award for First Level Management.

Since her time with the Chapter, Opsitnick has earned the trust and respect of the Board and Finance Committee for her able leadership.

"This year she has been a huge leader for the chapter. She assisted us in a difficult financial year. A lot of things happening June led the way on. She has excellent bookkeeping and organizational skills," Thayer said.

Gerry FitzGerald of East Longmeadow was presented with the Clara Barton Award for Volunteer Leadership. The Barton Award is the highest award that can be given by any Red Cross Unit. FitzGerald is President of FitzGerald & Mastroianni Advertising in Springfield. He has been involved in supporting the Chapter for nearly 20 years during which time he has shared an extraordinary amount of time and talent to support the mission of the American Red Cross in his communities.

He has chaired the Chapter's successful annual golf event for the past several years. He is also actively involved in numerous committees, assists with fundraising and is a diligent goodwill ambassador for all of the Chapter's work.

Honored for her outstanding support of the Pioneer Valley Chapter and the Disaster Services Department was Jean Jack of Springfield. Jack began her volunteer service to the American Red Cross in 2004 just prior to massive flooding in the Pennsylvania river valleys. Having been recently trained for disaster response, she was deployed immediately to the area to assist. Since that time, she has been deployed to assist with national disasters twice each year, including Oklahoma, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and as far away as Washington state.

Also presented with the Exceptional Volunteer Service Award was Jerry Rudolph of East Windsor, Conn. Rudolph is a human resource manager for Securitas Security and has been a volunteer instructor for the Pioneer Valley Chapter since April 2006. He is one of the most active instructors for the Chapter's Health and Safety Department, answering the call to service even very last minute, always handling his classes with professionalism, fully prepared with a goal of ensuring a quality experience for all of his students.

Thayer said the last two awards are given annually and that Jack and Rudolph were nominated and selected based on "their outstanding service to the chapter as a whole."