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LETTERS: Red Cross honors local resident for 24 years of service, dedication

To the editor:

My friend and colleague, Susan Tonra, the executive director of the Madison-Oneida Chapter of the American Red Cross, received the Oneida Rotary Club’s Bill Fariel Vocational Award on Tuesday, Oct. 2. She was honored for 24 years of service to our community.

The award itself is named after the late Bill Fariel. He was a teacher and the athletic director at Oneida High School. Like Tonra, Fariel was involved with numerous community organizations.

This special award honors remarkable individuals who have high ethical standards in business, demonstrate consistent quality in their work and are known widely throughout the community to be friendly and helpful.

She was nominated for the award by Amanda Larson, of the Gorman Foundation. The two met over a decade ago when Susan was applying for a grant.

Under Susan’s leadership, our trained volunteers in Madison and Oneida County have trained thousands of people in CPR/AED, First Aid and water safety; collected approximately 5,000 units of blood every year; assisted countless military families; and responded to hundreds of calls for help following residential fires, ice-storms, floods, etc.

During her tenure with the Red Cross, Susan was deployed to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Irene. She was sent to help families affected by the Oklahoma City bombing, and she was on the road to New York City with a team of Red Cross volunteers as soon as she heard about the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Since the January 2010 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I have had the pleasure of working with Susan from our Syracuse office. Last July, I began working with her on a daily basis after picking up Oneida, Otsego and Herkimer counties.

At about the same time, Susan went out on medical leave. To see someone so committed to community service receive the Bill Fariel Award was especially meaningful to those who know Susan because as she has bravely shared in public, she’s fighting pancreatic cancer right now.

Just before introducing Amanda to present the award, Mike Healy, communications director for Oneida Healthcare and president of the Oneida Rotary Club, said, “today’s attendance is the largest we’ve seen at one of our meetings and this is a wonderful tribute to the impact Susan has had on our community.”

I truly appreciate my friends from Cazenovia who took the time out of their busy schedules to congratulate Susan on receiving the Bill Fariel Award, and thank her for 24 years of service to Madison and Oneida Counties.

James Hastie

American Red Cross of CNY

Cazenovia

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