Seven honored at annual event

JAMESTOWN – Humility is a quality shared by all seven of this year’s Hometown Heroes.

Whether it is being in the ”right place at the right time,” serving one’s community for several decades or volunteering to build homes halfway around the world, this year’s recipients believe they’re just doing what anyone else would. Those who nominated these Hometown Heroes know that is not the case.

On Friday, the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York held its 12th Annual Salute to Hometown Heroes at Moon Brook Country Club in Jamestown. Stephen Romanik, Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department deputy; Alexander Harvey, Jamestown High School student; Adam Valvo, Cummins employee; Ray Austin, Alstar Emergency Medical Services EMT; Jack Knowlton, Lakewood Fire Department; David J. Wilson, Stockton supervisor; and Jeff Lubi, Chautauqua County Humane Society executive director, were this year’s recipients.

Two of this year’s Hometown Heroes were honored for saving a woman from a burning vehicle. The Law Enforcement Award was presented to Romanik and the Emergency Personnel Award was given to Austin. On Oct. 13, 2013, both men pulled a trapped driver from a car that was about to be engulfed in flames. According to Romanik, who was on patrol that morning, Austin is the real hero.

“I would not have been able to remove her myself,” Romanik said about the incident that happened along Route 83 in the town of Villenova.

Austin, who was driving home after a shift at Alstar Emergency Medical Services as an EMT, said Romanik deserves the credit.

“To me, he looked like Superman,” Austin said about Romanik arriving on the scene.

This year’s Workplace Award recipient, Valvo, was starting his shift at Cummins Engine when his training as a volunteer firefighter for Kiantone Fire Department was called into play. A co-worker at Cummins had collapsed and was not breathing so Valvo knew he had to perform CPR. Even though he was a volunteer for the fire department and had seen the life-saving technique performed before, he had never used CPR to resuscitate someone. While working on ”autopilot,” Valvo performed CPR to resuscitate his co-worker until Cummins’ safety team arrived with an automatic external defibrillator to restore normal heart rhythm.

“I just do it to help my community,” Valvo said about knowing CPR as a volunteer for the Kiantone Fire Department.

The Youth Award was given to Jamestown High School and part-time Jamestown Community College student Harvey for his work as a volunteer. Harvey tutors with Chautauqua Striders at Fletcher Elementary, volunteers at the Robert H. Jackson Center and built homes for Habitat For Humanity in Eastern Europe. He said he lives by the wise saying, “Leave the world a better place.”

“The best way to do that is to volunteer,” he said.

This year’s Firefighter Award went to Knowlton of the Lakewood Fire Department. Following in his father’s footsteps, Knowlton started working for the fire department in 1962. For the past 52 years Knowlton has served his community’s department. That service includes saving a 6-month old baby from a burning building in 1973.

“It is rewarding the camaraderie … you have with the guys you work with,” he said.

The Animal Rescue award went to Lubi who is the executive director of the Chautauqua County Humane Society. Lubi has worked for the humane society since 2003. He has strengthened the animal rehabilitation program and given more animals a second chance. The county’s humane society has a 97 percent save rate, which means no friendly, healthy animal will be euthanized.

“Animals are a big part of our lives. Someone needs to be their voice,” he said.

This year’s Humanitarian Award went to Wilson, who is the town of Stockton supervisor. Also, Wilson is the field manager for the county Soil and Water Conservation District and the Chautauqua County Fair board president. Wilson educates children about erosion and farming. He developed a replica miniature working farm that is displayed each year at the county fair.

“I was always brought up that you give back to the community,” he said.