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BOARDMAN Valley residents to be named True Heroes



Published: Thu, February 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The award recipients all went out of their way to help others less fortunate.

BOARDMAN -- Eleven Mahoning Valley residents who make a difference in the lives of others are to be honored as Valley True Heroes by Eddie DeBartolo Jr. in ceremonies tonight at the Holiday Inn Hotel & amp; Conference Center.

When he initiated the True Hero program in 2001, DeBartolo said that his frequent trips back to the Youngstown area from Florida to manage his real estate firm, DeBartolo Property Group, reminded him of just how great the Valley is.

"It's not the buildings or the companies, it's the people and the families that make this Valley great," DeBartolo said. "That's why I wanted to do something to honor the true heroes of the Valley -- the people who give selflessly to help others, yet are rarely recognized."

The 11 were selected by DeBartolo from those nominated by area residents.

What they receive: Recipients each receive a $2,500 gift certificate from local merchants and a $1,000 donation to the Youngstown/Mahoning Valley United Way made in their name.

Mark Escaja, executive vice president representing DPG, was scheduled to be tonight's presenter.

This year's DeBartolo True Heroes:

UFrances Gray has served as resident council president of Victory Estates Housing Development in Youngstown since 1984. She is involved in a variety of programs that make a difference to the quality of life for residents there.

UKaren Theis is founder of the Glow Girls support group for women who have undergone or who are facing treatment for cancer. Initially formed by Theis as a social club, the group of 20 former cancer patients now offers love, friendship and companionship to those facing cancer treatment for the first time.

UKathleen Price is founder and director of the Mission of Love Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpolitical group devoted to helping those in need worldwide. She has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles -- both within the United States and to some of the most remote locations overseas -- to ensure that much-needed aid reaches its destination.

UDarlene Waller is the founder and director of the "Can You Hang?" program for Youngstown children ages 7 to 18. The program gives Youngstown children a place to hang out at a renovated duplex on Youngstown's South Side. The goal is to show them there's another side of the world besides drugs, violence and gangs.

USister Patricia McNicholas is executive director of Beatitude House, which oversees two programs designed to help homeless women and their children in the Mahoning Valley: House of Blessing and the Potter's Wheel.

URey Esparra befriended a 14-year-old boy, paralyzed at birth, who controls his wheelchair with his head. Esparra now considers himself the boy's big brother and arranged for him to meet his favorite Cleveland Indians players at a game last summer. Esparra also collects donations at Christmas from fellow employees and personally delivers them to needy area families.

UDick Diamond is production coordinator for the Goodwill Industries Rehabilitation Center on Belmont Avenue. He works with the physically and mentally challenged clients of Goodwill to help them become productive members of society by teaching them workplace skills.

UJoe Lordi has operated Gleaners Food Bank for many years, which provides food and clothing to needy individuals and their families in the Youngstown area at no charge. He takes a personal interest in the people he helps, and invests his own time and effort to go above and beyond the call of duty to assist those in need.

UJohn Willis is a volunteer for the Volunteer Service to Seniors Program, which matches clients and volunteers one-on-one on a long-term basis. He provides help with shopping, errands, doctor visits and social outings, as well as visits to several seniors.

UCarmen Fortunato is an advocate for senior issues. He serves on the boards of several senior organizations, and has helped build wheelchair ramps, paint shelters for battered women, refurbish the United Methodist Community Center, install playground equipment for the McGuffey Center and repair and build storage buildings for the parks and recreation program of Youngstown.

UMary Spohn serves as a volunteer to the Salvation Army's Youngstown Corps and Community Center. She is described by SA officials as someone who "gives 10,000 percent to the betterment of the Salvation Army and in aid to those less fortunate in our Valley."




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