To observe National Volunteers Week, more than 60 people attended the Red Cross Citizen of the Year celebration Friday at North Central Ohio Educational Service Center in Tiffin. The honorees were Ray Wise of Tiffin and Arlen Lowery of Fostoria.
David Conley, director of the Red Cross of Fostoria and Seneca County, noted the American Red Cross has an estimated 500,000 volunteers who care for the victims of nearly 70,000 disasters yearly.
"Volunteers are an important part of the Red Cross. In fact, they are part of everything that happens at the American Red Cross. Their power is immeasurable; their value, incalculable," Conley said.
Francis Dove-Edwin of Sierra Leone gave the keynote address. Now a visiting lecturer at Tiffin University, Edwin said he was studying in California when civil war broke out in his home country. He knew the Red Cross provided humanitarian assistance at disasters and crises all over the world, and the organization also tended to the victims of war in Sierra Leone.
Because some ethnic and religious groups were hesitant to seek help from an organization with a Christian symbol, Edwin said the International Red Cross changed its logo to be more encompassing of other cultures. He emphasized citizens of every faith and nationality have a common bond of humanity.
"One thing we have to understand. In spite of everything in life, we are made of flesh and blood," Edwin said.
Conley introduced Lowery by reading a list of the award winner's achievements in the Fostoria community, including being a 10-gallon blood donor.
Lowery said growing up on a farm with a large family taught him to work hard. He thanked his family and friends who "made me what I am" and who came to share in his honor.
"I became involved with the Red Cross quite a few years ago when I decided on a whim to go and donate blood, and ran into someone I knew, my brother Dale," Arlen said.
The second honoree, Wise, is a past member of the American Red Cross board of directors. His work included completing surveys of potential disaster shelters and preparing the proper paperwork to make them available for emergency use.
Wise said the importance of those shelters was made obvious in 2011 when some area residents were forced out of their homes by flood waters.
"I recall the day the Red Cross opened a shelter in the Junior Fair Building. ... a local church brought in hand-crafted quilts," he said.
People who were left with no belongings turned to the Red Cross for a meal and a place to rest. Wise also recalled standing in the cold with Salvation Army Kettle to accept contributions. The discomfort he felt was forgotten when he helped to pass out gifts those donations had purchased for local children.