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. \u201cThe people and organizations we are honoring do extraordinary things,\u201d 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 \u201chonored and thankful\u201d 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, \u201cnot because of how bad the fire was, but because of the tremendous outreach by the community\u201d in its aftermath.