Erin Coleman of NBC10 served as the emcee. The keynote speakers included Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney and Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. The awards were presented by Bill O’Flanagan, President/General Manager, Reedman Toll Auto World; Gwen Borowsky, CEO, National Liberty Museum; and Peggy Sweeney, Chief Development Officer, National Liberty Museum. The event was enjoyed via zoom by the honorees, their families and colleagues, and other invited guests.
Officer Lewis, a member of the Lower Merion Township Police department, spearheaded the implementation of the HUB in March of 2019. In the inaugural year, 65 cases were presented for evaluation. This resulted in a vast array of needed services to many residents. The local school district has also been heavily involved by lending assistance and seeking intervention for at risk youth.
Officer Lewis is constantly looking at new and innovative ways to strengthen our relationships with all facets of the community. She is recognized for her hard work, dedication, innovation and service to the community.
Lieutenant George Werez
Meritorious Community Service – Individual
Philadelphia Fire Department/Fire Marshal
Lt. Werez has committed 11 years to the Fire Departments Fire Marshal’s Office (FMO), with the last 9 years as our K-9 accelerant handler, and he is a member the Special investigation unit within the FMO.
The Fire Marshal’s office investigates over 1900 fires a year. Four hundred of them are incendiary fires. Lt Werez and his K-9 Dona are involved with investigating most of them. George and Dona are called out numerous times a week to assist our Marshal’s. Dona is used to detect hydrocarbons such as gasoline and lighter fluid. To be a dog handler takes dedication and commitment. Lt Werez and Dona train every day.
The Philadelphia Fire Department has the words dedication and service in our emblem. Lt. Werez is the embodiment of these words and his selfless devotion to the citizens of Philadelphia and the Fire Marshal’s office should be honored.
In 2012, Sharon and Sean Cullen founded the Montgomery County Hero Fund in response to the murder of Officer Brad Fox of the Plymouth Township Police Department and United States Marine Corps. The Mission of the Montgomery County Hero Fund is to immediately guarantee that the acts of a Hero will never be forgotten and that we will always rise to the challenge of making sure sacrifice in the line of duty will never be in vain and that Law Enforcement Officers, Military Personnel, Firefighters, Paramedics and/or First Responders and their loved ones will be protected and cared for in the event of tragedy.
Mark has a passion to serve the community. When your family is sick, or injured, Mark is there beside the patient and instills confidence in everyone around watching and listening. He treats every scene, not just life and death calls, with courtesy towards family and Patients.
Mark is very active in the community and has spent a great deal of his own time helping others including mentoring First Responders who are being treated for PTSD, volunteering at Child Life Services St. Christopher’s Hospital, where he organized the first annual toy drive for St Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and is very active at the West Kensington Ministry, Norris Square. At West Kensington Ministry, Mark helps and mentors troubled youth.
Officer White of the 19th District Police District is a valued member of the community, where people appreciate his attention to their needs and the care and compassion with which he carries out his duties. At the time of Officer White’s arrival, the Overbrook Parl neighborhood was having a lot of problems with local students. Officer White came in and within three months had the students behaving in a totally different manner. Officer White works diligently to know the students who attend schools in his District, to interact with them in a positive manner, and to ensure that they are safe.
Community residents have commended Officer White for listening to them and helping to address the concerns they have about the neighborhood. He offers not only a listening ear, but he has the reputation for following up and solving problems. During the pandemic, Officer White has been active and a valuable resource to local businesses.
Nominated by a previous Awards of Valor winner, Fire Lieutenant Willard is a twenty-five year veteran in the Philadelphia Fire Department, a volunteer for the Cheltenham Fire Department, and is finishing graduate school with a Master’s in Emergency Management.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Emergency Operations Center was activated, and Lt. Willard was asked to assist the Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management. Lieutenant Willard helps to mitigate the food insecure population in Philadelphia. He assisted in organizing and facilitating the Feeding Group with thousands of school children, seniors, the unsheltered, and food vulnerable communities.
Additionally, Lieutenant Willard was the lead in the Office of Emergency Management in coordinating the Philadelphia School District in distributing over 100,000 laptops to children for remote learning.
Valor in Emergency Response – Team
West Berlin Fire Rescue
On Sunday, October 13, 2019 Ladder 22 was dispatched for an apartment fire with people trapped.
The EMT on location, David Venuto, also a volunteer firefighter with Lindenwold Fire Department, was giving reports as we were responding. EMT Venuto reported heavy smoke in the hallway of the second floor and confirmed at least one female trapped. Upon my arrival, Lt. Mihalick was positioning the aerial device, Lt. Mondile and FF Jackson, immediately became the enter and search/rescue crew. EMT Venuto had exited the building and directed the crew to the closest entry door to the fire apartment. Lt. Mondile and FF Jackson went into rescue a mission, entering the apartment, through heavy black smoke, and heat, all without the protection of a hose line, taking only a water can with them. Crawling through the apartment, FF Jackson utilizing water to keep the fire at bay, Lt. Mondile found a semi-conscious female, and despite the conditions, they were able to carry her out to Lt. Mihalick and awaiting EMS personnel, including EMT Venuto.
If not for these Firefighters fast reaction, reports from the EMT and the work ethic as a team, along with their fearless bravery and mentality of life preservation, the condition of the female would of have been a very different outcome.
Officers Smith and Decky took the initiative to form a partnership with “Braniak Express,” a privately owned local initiative, to begin a program for underserved youth in the 16th Police District, and provide free SAT prep and college prep tutoring, free of charge. These two officers recognize a need in the West Philadelphia community, for resources for the youth, as well as the need to build relationships between the police and the youth in our community.
During the pandemic, these officers have established weekly virtual programs for local youth, such as a virtual arts program, dance party, magic show, virtual tutoring, and community check-in forums.
On March 1st, 2020, Firefighter Nicholas Brown responded to a search and rescue call. Upon arrival, Firefighter Brown was met at the front door by heavy smoke, intense heat and zero visibility. Despite the terrible conditions, an unconscious female was located. FF Brown disregarded his own personal safety and began to extricate the woman from the dwelling. FF Brown was successful in completely removing the woman from the house, allowing advanced life support to be conducted outside of the dwelling, and thus saving her life.
As if that wasn’t courageous enough, eight short days later FF Brown exhibited another extreme act of heroism. On March 9th, 2020 there was a report of a woman trapped inside a dwelling. Ladder 4 and Engine 40 responded to the call, and firefighter Brown was working his way through intense heat and zero visibility to find the missing person. The trapped victim was eventually found and FF Brown showed great composure as he called out for support.
Valor in Emergency Response – Team
Department of Prisons Team
On May 29, 2020 at the Philadelphia Detention Center (Philadelphia Department of Prisons) a Correctional Sergeant and two Correctional Officers were stabbed during a physical altercation with an inmate. The Sergeant and the Officers tried multiple methods to subdue the individual, but the situation escalated, resulting in several injuries. The courageous acts of these officers helped secure the safety of other inmates and workers.
On January 29, 2020, a building fire was reported in an apartment complex and occupants were trapped inside and on outside decks on second and third floors. Firefighter Helenski was on-duty at the Swedeland Fire Company Station along with four other members who deployed to the incident scene. Onboard, Squad 48 (Rescue-Engine) FF Helenski assigned one firefighter to assist in connecting to a water supply and a two man crew to stretch the initial hose line, while simultaneously bringing an extension roof ladder single handedly to the rear of the property to attempt the rescue of a civilian from a third floor balcony.
Firefighter Helenski ascended the ground ladder and reached the trapped occupant in extremely dangerous smoke conditions. Using his training, he successfully removed the occupant and safely descended the ladder. The occupant was transferred to Emergency Medical Services for evaluation and treatment.
A retired Deputy Fire Chief of the Clifton New Jersey Fire Department, Chief Lyons is currently the chief on the Pequannock First Aid Squad for the past 5 years. At the 100% volunteer group, Chief Lyons has acted above and beyond his position during the pandemic. He is there to provide support and to help with the decontamination of every squad member involved in patient care. Thomas has also helped in obtaining PPE supplies so that every squad member stays safe during this pandemic.
On May 27, 2020, while returning from a doctors appointment, off duty Lieutenant Sean Dugan (then firefighter), his wife Sylvia, and his baby daughter Angeline were stopped at that intersection and witnessed the accident. An SUV had slammed into the rear of another vehicle. Inside the SUV was the drivers mother and three children, ages 6, 8, and 11 months. As the vehicles impacted each other, the severely damaged front engine compartment of the SUV suddenly engulfed in flames and started pouring thick black deadly smoke into the vehicle. FF Dugan, with his young wife and child watching from the safety of their own vehicle jumped into heroic action.
As the 6 and 8 year old children were being helped out of the side rear window by their mother, FF Dugan ran up to the scene and ascertained the severity of the situation. The fire was starting to rage out of control and deadly smoke was pouring throughout the vehicle. FF Dugan heard someone screaming that the baby was still in the back seat. With zero regards for his own safety and his family watching in horror, FF Dugan crawled through the door entering the damaged vehicle.
Crawling through deployed air bags, glass, and smoke FF Dugan made it to the rear seat coming upon a quiet but unharmed baby. The baby was still strapped in the car seat, FF Dugan unbuckled the baby and crawled back through the debris, shielding the baby with his body and reaching safety. After that ordeal, FF Dugan commandeered two fire extinguishers from bystanders and attempted to extinguish the inferno.
Since the NLM’s founding, a major component of our work has been our series of annual awards programs honoring the everyday heroes who live among us. This exhibition celebrates teachers, students, police officers, firefighters & first-responders, and healthcare professionals who have demonstrated extraordinary courage and made a difference in the lives of others.
Click here to learn more and purchase Museum tickets.