Five letter carriers who helped rescue nearly 100 people from a three-alarm fire at a senior citizens’ apartment building in Oakland, Calif. have been selected as winners of the 2008 “Hero of the Year” Award of the National Association of Letter Carriers, the 302,000-member postal union announced.
NALC President William H. Young will present the National Hero of the Year award jointly to five California letter carriers: Alan Girard of Fremont, Rick Quinonez of Hayward, Gilbert Rangel of Vacaville, Tanya Joseph of El Sobrante and Karen Hill of America Canyon, all members of Oakland-area NALC Greater East Bay Branch 1111, at a special luncheon ceremony Sept. 18 at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, DC.
Nearing the end of his route in Oakland on Oct. 6, 2007, Girard noticed smoke and an orange glow coming from the second floor of six-level Baywood Apartments, located close to the Postal Service’s Piedmont Station.
Using his passkey to gain entry, he quickly pulled a fire alarm and knocked on doors to alert residents of the spreading blaze. He was soon joined by colleagues who had noticed the growing fire – arriving on the scene like a cavalry of white postal vehicles – and together they led the residents to safety before firefighters arrived. One 87-year-old resident died in the fire.
The union’s annual National Humanitarian of the Year award will be presented to David Lundy of High Point, N.C., a member of NALC High Point Branch 936, who along with his wife, spent a year in persistent pursuit of obtaining care for an elderly patron.
Lundy became aware of an elderly woman on his route who was unable to properly care for herself. He and his wife took it upon themselves to check on her, often after hours; attempted to locate her family for help; and ultimately got her placed in a nursing home where she is receiving medical attention, meals and proper hygienic care.
Young noted in announcing the awards that the winners continue the proud tradition of letter carriers who have performed heroic and humanitarian acts throughout the union’s 119-year history.
“The NALC is extremely proud of these men and women,” Young said. “Countless members of this union come to the aid of people every day along their postal routes and elsewhere. Often this is done at risk of personal danger and we are proud to recognize these acts of heroism.”
Rhonda Russell of New York City, a member of NALC New York Branch 36, was named the recipient of the Special Carrier Alert Award for alerting officials to a major identity theft case when she noticed a volume of credit card mail in the name of an 85-year-old woman who had been in a nursing home for several months.
Three regional heroes will also be honored at the September 18 event:
- Paul Gereffi of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., a member of NALC Ft. Lauderdale Branch 2550, was named Eastern Region Hero for helping subdue a disgruntled man who had assaulted his boss with a steak knife. Driving along his route, Gereffi noticed a man with a shirt covered in blood behind a building. After calling 911, he and another witness held the attacker until police arrived.
- Dean Dunkel of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a member of NALC Cedar Rapids Branch 373, was named as Central Region Hero for crawling inside a partially submerged car and rescuing the driver after she skidded off the road into a creek during a torrential rainstorm. Rushing waters threatened to swallow up the vehicle with the woman inside until Dunkel took swift action.
- Raymond Rivera Jr. of San Antonio, Tex., a member of NALC San Antonio Branch 421, was named Western Region Hero for rescuing two little girls who were being attacked by a pair of dogs as the girls played near his home. Rivera grabbed one dog by the face as it was biting one of the girls in the face, and restrained it for 45 minutes until authorities arrived. Another neighbor controlled the other dog. The girl received more than 100 stitches and required plastic surgery.
Judges selecting the winners were Jordan (Bud) Biscardo, AFL-CIO Community Services liaison at United Way of America; Shelby Hallmark, director, U.S. Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs; and Phil Guercio, chief of Montgomery County (Maryland) Fire and Rescue Services.