Democrat Photo by Matt Youngfrau
THE SULLIVAN COUNTY chapter of the American Red Cross of Greater New York lauded several committed local residents. Award winners and Red Cross members gathered in Ferndale on Thursday. In the back row, from the left, are Scott Samuelson, Dr. Louis Rodrigues, Rabbi Aba Gorelick, John Riley, Dan Briggs and Robert Ratner. In the front row, from the left, are Red Cross Director Bette Popovich, Carmen Rodrigues, Susan Hamlin and Linda Barriger.
By Matt Youngfrau
FERNDALE June 18, 2002 The American Red Cross has helped many in times of need and emergency. And ever since the tragic events of September 11, the work the Red Cross has done has been more recognized and appreciated than ever before.
Yet like any organization, the Red Cross needs funding to be able to continue their work. So the Sullivan County chapter of the Red Cross holds an annual fundraiser that takes in the majority of the money needed for the year.
The 5th Annual Gala Awards Reception took place at One Cablevision Center in Ferndale on Thursday, June 13. Approximately 150 people came to honor four people and raise funds for the Red Cross. The gala brought in about $25,000.
"It has been an outstanding success," commented 2002 Gala Benefit Chair Dan Briggs. "We have accomplished what we set out to do. The Red Cross has always helped out people in need."
"This is a great event," new Sullivan County District 3 Legislator Greg Goldstein remarked. "They are honoring people who gave their time and effort to the community. This event brings everyone in the community together. I am proud to be a part of it."
"This has been fabulous," stated Red Cross Director Bette Popovich. "Everybody has a September 11 story. Because of it, everyone recognized the importance of the community coming together in emergency service. I am pleased to see so many come out to support the Red Cross."
Four distinguished community members were honored that night. The 2002 Quality of Human Life Award was presented to Dr. Louis Rodrigues and his wife, Carmen Rodrigues. The 2002 Community Service Award was awarded to Susan Hamlin and Robert Ratner.
Along with the plaques and crystal apples, each recipient was given proclamations from United States Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, United States Congressmen Maurice Hinchey and Benjamin Gilman, New York State Senator John Bonacic, and New York State Assemblyman Jake Gunther. Before the awards were presented, a letter was read congratulating the honorees from New York State Governor George Pataki.
But it was the locals who showered the most praise on the winners.
"I could not do justice to Carmen and Louis," Rabbi Aba Gorelick said. (Gorelick and Patrick Dollard presented the Rodrigueses with their awards). "They are very special individuals. They have true respect for the importance and quality of human life. No one can match them. They dedicate their lives to the highest ideals."
"It is said that we live by the grace of God," Dollard added. "We live by the grace of good people God put on this earth. Louis and Carmen are the best of the best."
After a prolonged standing ovation, both Rodrigueses accepted their awards.
"It is an honor every day to live and work with family and friends," remarked Louis Rodrigues. "It has been a godsend and an honor. It has been an honor to be with Carmen for 42 years. It has been a privilege to learn from her."
"I thank you for allowing me to be here," Carmen Rodrigues commented. "It is an honor. I am happy to be in the community. I feel like I belong here."
The Community Service Awards were presented by John Riley, filling in for Jeffersonville photographer Eddie Adams, who was unable to attend due to a last-minute obligation.
"It is my privilege to present these awards," Riley said. "They raised a lot of funds for the families of the victims of September 11. They sold a picture they took of the Twin Towers, added a phrase, and raised over $30,000. That shows their community service."
"Out of something bad, something good came out," Hamlin stated.
"The picture was a fluke," Ratner added. "All of us put the idea together. The response has been amazing."
And the accolades continued.
"This is a beautiful gathering," commented Sullivan County Family Court Judge Mark Meddaugh. "This evening is for a worthy cause. The Rodrigueses do a lot for the community. All of tonight's honorees are worthy of recognition."
"I love this event," remarked Master of Ceremonies Scott Samuelson. After all that has happened this year, we have done great. The people honored tonight, in particular, have done so much."
The Sullivan County chapter of the Red Cross spent the year raising money. Their goal is $30,000 by the end of June. Popovich feels, with the success of the Gala, the Red Cross will achieve that.