Shelton veteran, fire company honored as Red Cross heroes

The American Red Cross honored a Huntington military veteran and a Shelton volunteer fire company during its 16th annual Community Heroes Breakfast on Jan. 30 in Stamford.

The individuals and organizations recognized have made a life-saving or life-changing difference in their communities.

“The people and organizations we are honoring do extraordinary things,” said Mario Bruno, Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region CEO.

Military Hero Award: Alfred Meadows

Alfred Meadows of Shelton is a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart Medal recipient who served in both the Korea and Vietnam conflicts.

Meadows is the founder of Operation Gift Cards, which has presented more than 17,000 thank-you kits valued at more than $800,000 to wounded troops and military support groups.

Since October 2005, Operation Gift Cards volunteers have made 114 visits to wounded troops and their families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Nearly 300 representatives from 70 co-sponsoring organizations have participated in the visits.

Meadows said he is “honored and thankful” that Operation Gift Cards has received recognition. He said the program has succeeded due to a dedicated committee, many volunteers, and individuals and organizations who have made donations.

Red Cross Spirit Award: Echo Hose Fire

The work of Echo Hose Hook & Ladder Company 1 during and after a major fire on Howe Avenue in January 2014 saved and changed the lives of people living in a mixed-use building that burned to the ground.

Echo Hose Capt. Mike Plavcan recounted the events of that freezing night, when Shelton firefighters were dispatched near midnight and discovered a basement fire in one of the businesses.

Heavy smoke billowed out of multiple apartments above the businesses, and occupants were trapped.

Firefighters evacuated 28 residents, including five through an aerial rescue operation. Their quick, decisive and courageous actions prevented a devastating fire from becoming a tragedy.

Following the massive blaze, Echo Hose members began relief efforts for the victims displaced by the fire, collecting food, clothes, gift cards and money.

Plavcan said the downtown blaze is one that the firefighters will not forget, “not because of how bad the fire was, but because of the tremendous outreach by the community” in its aftermath.