The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 27, 2014

Someone to look up to

OTTUMWA — Not everyone called a hero is rescuing accident victims on a lonely stretch of road. But sometimes, that's exactly what happens.

"There was a rollover accident," said Joni Keith, a Red Cross board member. "Ashley Hale-Smith was on her way home. She stopped; the truck was on fire. She was given a fire extinguisher and put out the fire."

Hale-Smith then gave personal aid, stabilized the victim's broken neck and stayed with her the whole time.

The Southern Prairie Chapter of the American Red Cross chooses people annually to be honored as "Heroes of the Heartland."

The word "hero" can apply to many different roles, Keith said. She chaired the judging committee.

Red Cross board member Larry Jarvis said the organization accepts "paper nominations," at which time Keith and her committee go through the process of reviewing applications, verifying documentation and running background checks on finalists.

"The focus is to recognize some really good people that go around their community and do really good things," said Jarvis. "We seek nominations especially for people that don't necessarily get recognition on an everyday basis."

For example, since their retirement from Ottumwa schools, Jim and Darla Jackson have dedicated themselves to helping people: church, a homeless shelter, Hospice. But they are especially active with the dogs and cats at Heartland Humane Society. They are active volunteers and served as board members for many years.

"When I think of Heartland Humane Society, I think of the Jacksons," said Keith. "Finding homes for pets. Any of their fundraising events, they're there working."

Josh Chance and all of his co-workers may be considered heroes already: They're Ottumwa firefighters. The firefighters do outreach in Ottumwa, collecting toys, coats and money for March of Dimes. Chance, the committee decided, saw additional community need.

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