Red Cross Recognizes Heroes of Stanislaus and Tuolumne Counties


Despite what the movies may tell us, our heroes don’t wear funny costumes or work out of secret high tech caves. They don’t have secret identities. However, many heroes may display super powers when they must. And sometimes they may have trusty sidekicks backing them up in times of need.

Most often our heroes are our neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, or even complete strangers – they are otherwise “ordinary” people performing extraordinary acts for no other reason than it needed to be done.

On the morning of Tuesday, June 11, guests packed the banquet hall at the Modesto (CA) Doubletree to hear these incredible stories as the Capital Region honored local heroes for their selfless acts.

Performing lifesaving CPR, supporting local military veterans, protecting a sibling from an oncoming car, people rescuing animals and even an animal saving a person – the stories were inspiring and heartwarming. And yet all shared a common theme: we can all be heroes.

As the day’s honorees humbly accepted their recognition, it was clear they didn’t feel they were “heroes”. Rather they were simply doing “what anyone else would have done.” But they didn’t wait for anyone else to do it. They recognized a need and took action, and for that they are heroes.

Meet the heroes of Stanislaus and Tuolumne Counties:

Animal Rescue Hero:  Darlene Mathews

DarleneMathewsFriends of the Animal Community (FOAC) in Sonora, California, was founded in 2000 by Darlene Mathews after she took a stray dog to Tuolumne County Animal Control and realized how many animals were taken there.  Working with Animal Control, FOAC began removing animals for care and adoption. FOAC began tracking rescues in 2002 and as of April, 2013, they’ve removed 1,116 animals into volunteer care or adoption.  Unwanted pets and strays also come directly to FOAC through the community.

FOAC is a nonprofit organization run solely by volunteers dedicated to reduce the euthanasia rate at Animal Control.  In 2000, 50% of animals brought to animal control were euthanized.  That rate is down to 25% thanks to the efforts of FOAC.

While they primarily rescue at-risk dogs, cats are also taken in.  Animals selected by FOAC are those that have limited to no chance of adoption.  They all have minor to major medical needs, behavioral problems or are unkempt.  FOAC sees to their medical care through local veterinarians, where animals are treated, spayed / neutered, given shots and are chipped.  Animals receive grooming and are placed in a volunteer’s care until adopted into a forever home.

In 2012, FOAC piloted Senior Pet Assistance (SPA) with TuolumneCounty’s Meals on Wheels (MOW) Program.  SPA brings together  sheltered dogs and cats with MOW seniors who are mostly shut-ins, living on limited incomes.  FOAC maintains the responsibility of veterinary care and pet food, to reduce the financial burden.  SPA’s objective is for MOW participants to reflect health and emotional benefits from having the companionship of a loving pet.

Darlene Mathews and Friends of the Animal Community, you are to be commended for your dedication to reduce euthanasia, and for bringing hope and joy to Tuolumne County seniors through the SPA program.  American Red Cross is proud to recognize you as our 2013 Animal Rescue Hero.

Good Samaritan Adult Hero: Donna David

DonnaDavidOn September 17, 2012, Donna David was headed to work. While at the Coffee and Sylvan light she noticed dark smoke coming from a residential area north of her office. She called 9-1-1 then went to the building and knocked on doors to alert residents of the fire.

Moving to the additional units, she saw a young boy and asked where his parents were. He said they were inside.  Donna directed him to wait on the street sidewalk until his parents came out. She knocked on their door yelling for them to leave.  She continued towards the back units crossing paths with a man and his large dog pulling him at a run. He yelled his parents were grabbing their things and Donna went to the door urging them out. She then saw a young man using a garden hose to spray the fire and told him it was too big and that the fire department was coming.. Donna could hear the crackling and popping coming from the garage as she went to the back unit and yelled for them to leave. Ensuring everyone was safely out of all four units and that the fire department had arrived, she got back in her car and drove to work.

Donna just seems to be in the right place in emergency situations. One time a candle burning too close to a Christmas tree caught fire and, again, she was the first to arrive. Two male occupants were able to escape; unfortunately, a young woman did not.  When 7 months pregnant she witnessed a rollover accident in front of the credit union and went out to help. Seeing several backpacks strewn in the street, she was amazed there were no serious injuries. Another time a fellow employee was using scissors to open a box when they slipped and became imbedded between her eyes.  Donna took control, providing first aid until paramedics arrived.  These are just a few instances in which she has responded.

Good Samaritan Senior: Audrey Foster

AudreyFosterAudrey Foster is a remarkable lady who has dedicated her life to meeting the needs of abandoned children and those waiting for a family to fill their lives with the love and care they need and deserve. In 1982, under the umbrella of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Audrey developed a home-finding adoption agency, now known as Family Connections Christian Adoptions (FCCA).  FCCA initially focused on children with special needs. The agency received state licensing in 1983 and served Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced Counties. By 1989 they were licensed to serve 40 counties in California. In 1991, FCCA, developed programs for inter-country adoptions, including India, Ethiopia and Hong Kong.  In 1992, FCCA became a licensed foster family agency.  As a result of Audrey’s vision, FCCA has placed 4,739 children during the past 30 years.

In 1997, she learned about a group of women trying to feed and clothe orphans in Uganda.  Most of these children were orphaned when their parents died from AIDS.  Audrey developed a ministry to assist children at Dorcas Orphanage near Mbale, Uganda.  The purpose was to find sponsors for children, promote adequate education, ensure available health care, and meet their basic needs. Shared Blessings International Christian Ministries (SBICM) sponsorship program began in1998 under FCCA and in 2007 became a separate non-profit religious corporation. Audrey has served as Executive Director since its inception and continues in that role today. SBICM has grown from a single ministry at DorcasVillage to a program that allows individual sponsorship of children to provide for their daily needs, education and making lifesaving resources available to children at Kaziya Orphanage in Gulu, Uganda; Children Safe Uganda near Kampala, Uganda; and OdishaSchool in Orissa, India.  SBICM efforts have resulted in child sponsorships in all locations, provision of fresh water by drilling wells, purchasing a van, ensuring medical care for children at a DorcasVillageHealthCenter, and constructing several buildings in varying locations.

Audrey, it is an honor to recognize you as our 2013 Good Samaritan Senior.  Thank you for the work you have done on behalf of children and families around the world. 

Good Samaritan Youth: Nina Leal

NinaLealNina Leal was nominated for the Good Samaritan Youth Hero for her extraordinary act of kindness, quick thinking and knowledge of lifesaving first aid. Nina is an active eight year old, who attends MaryLouDieterichElementary School in Modesto with her twin sister.   For the past three years the two have been involved in the Dietrich after school program and it was while there, that Nina used her skills to come to the aid of her sister.

On November 14, 2012, Nina was standing in front of Emily as they waited to move to another classroom.  While standing in line, Nina noticed that her sister was choking on her snack.  Having learned basic first aid from her family, Nina immediately reached her arms around Emily from behind and clenched her fists together to perform abdominal thrusts successfully dislodging the food and allowing Emily to breath again.  Nina acted very fast and did what she needed to do to save her sister; reflecting knowledge beyond her years.

Nina, thank you for your quick actions to help your sister during a choking emergency!  We are proud to honor you as our 2013 Good Samaritan Youth Hero.

Law Enforcement Hero: Officer Joseph Wren and K-9 Zeus

ZeusOn February 5, 2013, City of Ceres Police Officer Joseph Wren and K-9 Zeus responded to a Stanislaus County Sheriff Department’s call for an unincorporated area in Ceres.  Sheriff Deputies were dispatched, but a delay was expected.

Officer Wren was the first to arrive, where neighbors directed him to a rear apartment.  As Wren approached with lights flashing, he could hear yelling and loud banging noises.  It was then that he saw a young man covered in blood and holding a shovel.  Officer Wren informed dispatch and requested immediate back up.  As he walked toward the suspect, the man screamed “I will kill you!”  Officer Wren pulled his firearm and ordered the suspect to drop the shovel.  The suspect turned back to the apartment.  Terrified screams could be heard from inside and Officer Wren knew he needed to act quickly to gain control.

Officer Wren ordered the suspect to drop the shovel and the man turned on him growling and yelling he would kill him.  Officer Wren positioned himself to distract the suspect while he used the auto-door release to let K-9 Zeus out.  Again, Wren ordered the man to drop the shovel. As the suspect turned on Wren, Zeus shot out of the car biting the suspect and quickly bringing him down.  Zeus maintained his hold while Officer Wren restrained the suspect. 

The Sheriff’s Department arrived to take the suspect into custody and booked him on charges, including attempted murder and battery on a K-9 and police officer. It was later learned that the suspect had stabbed a 23 year-old man. 

Officer Wren and Zeus, you are to be commended for your immediate response when the sheriff’s dispatch requested assistance. Your quick action resulted in keeping victims from further harm, fellow officer’s safe and apprehension of the suspect without using a firearm.  It is for the above actions that we are proud to honor you as our 2013 Law Enforcement Hero. 

Medical Professional Hero: Douglas Chadwick, MD (retired)

DougChatwickFor the past 10 years, Dr. Douglas Chadwick has volunteered his services as a retired pediatrician to the Children’s Crisis Center of Stanislaus County (CCC).  Dr. Chadwick’s commitment to the health of these children is evident in his frequent visits to the agency’s five sites, in which he provides free health screenings.

CCC provides safety and shelter to children birth to 17 years of age who are at risk of abuse and/or neglect or homeless.  Dr. Chadwick ensures that children in their care meet the health screening requirements necessary to keep them safe.  Once while examining a young child, Dr. Chadwick detected a rare heart condition which was subsequently addressed through surgery.  Another time his accurate assessment, intervention and referral for undiagnosed Cerebral Palsy meant that a family was able to access medical care and therapeutic resources not available prior to his diagnosis. 

Dr. Chadwick’s endless energy and upbeat personality is contagious. He has a way of connecting with young children, often using his visits as a “teaching tool.”  Children who may be timid and initially afraid of seeing a “doctor” are inevitably taken in by his charm, as he compares a stethoscope to a telephone, “where your heart can speak to you”.  

Dr. Chadwick’s has become active in almost a dozen organizations and boards, including Stanislaus Civil War Association, Healthy Aging Association, Stanislaus Arts Council, Doctors Without Borders and Shared Blessings International Christian Ministries, a Modesto-based agency working to support Ugandan orphans through nutrition, education and health care.  His efforts helped to build and improve a health care center, complete with a delivery room and incubator to increase newborn survival rates.

Dr. Chadwick, thank you for continuing to care for children needing it the most. Your commitment to the health and well-being of children experiencing neglect, abuse and/or homelessness is why we are honoring you as our 2013 Medical Professional Hero.

Military Hero: Phillip B. Ramos, Specialist Army Reserves; US Army

PhillipRamosUS Army Reserve Specialist (Spc.) Phillip Ramos is attached to the Army Reserve unit for Military Police in Fresno, after two enlistments in the Army between 2004 and 2010, with each including a tour to Iraq. During his first tour, he was recognized for extraordinary service of actions taken during combat.  A partial list includes: delivering passengers to safety when his vehicle was hit with heavy artillery causing the vehicle to catch fire; supporting a short-staffed medical unit during his appointment to off load critically injured Iraqi patients following an IED explosion; delivering combat supplies to fixed sites while under heavy fire by exiting the vehicle to ensure ground troops received essential supplies and working with civilians to instill peace.

Following his second enlistment, Ramos attended college in Oregon and responded to a traffic accident outside his classroom.  The incident resulted in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms making it impossible to continue school.  Ramos returned home to be close to family and VA medical services while continuing to serve in the Reserves and volunteer to support veterans and military families.

This past year, Spc. Ramos has worked with the Water Wounded Warrior Project helping to feed 120 Warriors and family members.  Ramos has stood honor in a flag line at ModestoAirport for two Fallen Soldiers, then escorting procession to the funeral homes. As an active member of Turlock’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post (VFW) 5059, Ramos routinely greets veterans attending appointments at the Veteran Affair’s Palo Alto Mobile Medical Van.  He socializes, provides refreshments and directs them to health care. He assists with the annual “Thank a Veteran” event through CSU Stanislaus Troops to School program and delivering Christmas toys, gift cards, food and clothing to 15 active military families from the Stockton-based deployed helicopter unit.  Ramos feels by volunteering he can support those going through similar experiences that he’s gone through.

Specialist Phillip Ramos, thank you for serving and representing our country in so many ways.  We are truly proud to honor you as our 2013 Military Active Duty Hero.

Military Veteran Hero: Robert Scarbrough, U.S. Navy

RobertScarboroughRobert “Bob” Scarbrough served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, achieving an E-4 rank as a Patrol River Boat combatant.  Mr. Scarbrough completed three combat tours and received an honorable discharge for his service.

In 2010, Mr. Scarbrough retired after many years has a school bus driver and shortly thereafter attended two months of intensive care for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  After completing his intensive care, Bob approached Steve Lawson, Modesto Vet Center Team Lead with an idea for a “mission to give back” to other veterans and their families. His idea was to purchase a pontoon boat and take combat vets and their families on local fishing tours of lakes and the San Joaquin Delta. Bob felt his past experience as a professional fishing guide would lend naturally to this venture.

As a way to support the program, Bob started his own business selling Armed Forces insignia pins, clocks, patches, vests, attire and other items.  All profits are returned to the program including bait, tackle, fuel, food and other items for the fishing tours.  It became a win, win.  He sells items below market rate so veterans can afford the items and then invests the proceeds into the program.  The added benefit is that veterans are proudly displaying their branch of service, combat experiences and units, which has opened doors of communication between veterans.  The items are an important means to further the “welcome home” message to all servicemen and servicewomen.  The ModestoVetCenter, Veteran’s Affairs and other Veteran’s organizations have the highest respect for Mr. Scarbrough.  Through his vision and tireless efforts, Bob has reached thousands of Veterans and their families bringing hope and healing.

It is with the greatest honor and respect that we recognize Robert Scarbrough as our 2013 Military Veteran Hero.

Professional Rescuers: Stuart Nickels and Alyssa Corbett

StuartAlyssaOn October 25, 2012, Stuart Nickels and his partner Alyssa Corbett, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) with ProTransport had just finished loading a dialysis patient for transfer.  As they were making final checks, Stuart noticed a patient being loaded into another ambulance and thought she didn’t look very good.  Stuart then noticed increased activity in the unit and asked Alyssa if she was ok while he checked.  Upon approaching the ambulance, the EMT said their patient was coding and asked if he would assist. Stuart relayed to Alyssa to notify their dispatch about the delay and ran back to help.

Stuart quickly jumped into the back of their unit and was directed to begin compressions while the other EMT managed the airway. Stuart did approximately five rounds of compressions when the paramedic on scene delivered a counter shock with the defibrillator. Alyssa stayed with the ProTransport unit assuring her alert patient that all would be ok.  Because ambulances load patients with the back doors facing each other, Alyssa’s patient was concerned with all of the commotion in the other unit.

Within minutes, a local fire department arrived and took over compressions. The unit then rushed the patient to St. Joseph’s Hospital where the she received further treatment. 

EMS professionals enter the response field because they want to help people. Still concerned about the patient’s well-being, Stuart went to check on her and was informed she had responded and under watch.  The combined effort of these teams is an excellent example of competitive boundaries being dissolved to do the right thing for the patient. 

Stuart and Alyssa thank you for exemplifying the motto, “it’s more than a job – it’s a calling.”  We are proud to honor you as American Red Cross 2013 Professional Rescuers. 

Workplace Hero: Frank Trinta, Jr.

FrankTrintaOn Wednesday, July 11, 2012, Frank Trinta, Jr. of Trinta Bros. Inc., was following employee, Randy Morganti, back to Trinta Ranch in Patterson after they picked up a load of sulfur.   Randy was driving a Ford 7500 flatbed pickup and carrying nearly a ton of 50 pound bags of highly flammable sulfur.  As Randy approached Walnut and Sycamore, a car driving 60-70 mph in a 25 mile zone, careened through the intersection hitting the truck and causing it to turn 180 degrees, flip over and ignite into flames.  Randy, a former volunteer firefighter with the West Stanislaus Fire Protection District, hung upside down and unconscious in the driver’s seat.

Frank quickly pulled over and ran to provide aid, but not seeing any movement he feared Randy wasn’t alive. As the fire grew, all Frank knew was that he had to get Randy out of the truck and began  working quickly to pull him from the burning wreckage.  Finally freeing him from a suspended position, Frank began to drag Randy as far from the fire as he could. 

Due to the hazardous nature of the accident, West Stanislaus Fire Protection, Patterson Police and the Highway Patrol all responded, attributing his life being spared because of Frank’s quick actions.  Randy suffered second degree burns on his back and arms and a large laceration on his head.  After nine months of healing, he returned to work at Trinta Bros. in April.

Frank, you put the life of your employee and friend ahead of your own and we are proud to honor you as our Red Cross 2013 Workplace Hero.

Bette Belle Smith Spirit of the Red Cross Heroes: Henry Benavides, Peter Hastings, Michael Mutoza and Michael Silver

EMTsHenry Benavides, Peter Hastings, Mike Mutoza and Michael Silver, all Stanislaus American Medical Response (AMR) paramedics, were part of a strike team that responded to Superstorm Sandy in and around New York City and New Jersey. Leaving their families and safety of home, the NorCal Strike Team, part of a specially trained disaster medical responder’s unit deployed for several weeks, arriving just before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. These four men and hundreds of other first responders from across the nation are trained to work long hard hours in extreme conditions, specifically to provide medical care.

By arriving ahead of the storm, they could ramp up and be ready to respond at a moment’s notice.  What they didn’t expect was to be among the first called into action as the storm bore down, transporting critically fragile newborns out of YU Langone Medical Center.  Like an assembly line, ambulances lined up for over a mile, inching their way to the hospital doors where nursing and response teams gently loaded medically fragile patients with lifesaving apparatus still attached, delivering them to safety and returning for more.  After the initial storm, the weather turned frigid and the snow began to fall.  They were then moved to support evacuation of BellevueHospital in the deepening snow and work the 911 call center on Long Island.

As paramedics you respond and save lives everyday. As a NorCal Strike Team, you reach even deeper going to great lengths to care for patients during times of disaster.  Your care, handling and transport of medically fragile individuals and infants in neo-natal intensive care units during the height of Superstorm Sandy is beyond compare, and we are proud to recognize each of you as our 2013 Bette Belle Smith Spirit of the Red Cross Heroes. 

Hero of the Year: Flora Ortega

FloraOrtegaSchool had been out for a couple of weeks when 10 year old Flora Ortega and her 12 year old brother, Gilbert Ortega, Jr. crossed Crows Landing Road to get tacos.  It was Saturday, June 16, 2012, a typical Graffiti Night, classic cars could be seen almost everywhere around town.  Flora and her brother, with his bike, crossed over to the taco vendors and ordered 10 tacos and then went to the mini market for soda.  When they returned for the tacos, their order had been given to another customer, so they waited while another order was prepared.

The vendors are just across from ShacklefordElementary School and they usually use the crosswalk at School Road, but decided to cut across the street to get home.  Gilbert was pushing his bike along, when out of the corner of her eye Flora saw a car coming at them.  With out a thought, she pushed Gilbert out of the car’s path and she was hit by the Model T hot rod, with an exposed engine.  The impact forced Flora into the Model T’s windshield before she hit the road.  Injuries included a fractured skull, two broken ankles, a broken arm and lacerated spleen.  A passing motorist stopped to help and paramedics soon arrived, who first considered airlifting her, but instead transported her to DoctorsMedicalCenter and later transferred to Madera Children’s Hospital. 

Flora genuinely cares about other people and will help out whenever she sees a need.  It doesn’t matter whether she knows them or not.  That caring spirit did not go unnoticed and she was selected to speak at her 6th grade graduation, having attended all seven years (K-6th) at ShacklefordElementary School, endearing herself to fellow students and staff. 

Flora you risked your life to save your brother and succeeded though you sustained serious injuries. Flora you are a true hero.  You acted instinctively and selflessly saved your brother’s life and we are extremely proud to recognize you as the American Red Cross 2013 Hero of the Year.

We are proud and honored to recognize the heroes of our region. For more information about Red Cross Heroes, visit the Capitol Region Chapter website. Do you know someone that is a hero? Tell us their story and nominate them for recognition here! Nominations may be submitted year-’round.

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American Red Cross California Gold Country Region

The California Gold Country Region serves a twenty-six county territory including Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba counties

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