EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 20, 2014

Hailing Our Heroes

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They are sometimes seasoned professionals, but just as often their only credential is passionate concern. And heroism can take several forms, from sudden, physical courage to commitment over time.

No matter how their heroism was expressed, the American Red Cross recognizes local heroes every year at a breakfast. This year’s is being held this morning at the DoubleTree by Hilton Boston North Shore in Danvers. Here are this year’s local heroes.

Community Hero: Herman Ocasio

Martial arts instructor Herman Ocasio has not only taught area youth to defend themselves, but has helped them discover the rewards of helping others through neighborhood clean-up campaigns, toy drives and fund-raising efforts. For 16 years, Herman and his students have won special renown for their work on a Thanksgiving food drive, which has served more than 4,000 needy families in the Haverhill area. Known as the Turkey Brigade, they not only raise money for this program, but package and deliver holiday food baskets.

Workplace Hero: NxStage Medical, Inc.

Lawrence-based medical products company NxStage has staged many drives in support of local agencies that serve the disadvantaged, including, in the last year alone, Project Home Again, Lazarus House and St. Anne’s Home Giving Tree. NxStage has also assisted national charities like Habitat for Humanity, and helped the American Red Cross with its blood drives and its efforts to prepare corporate employees to act as volunteers in disasters.

Enduring Hero: Neiland Douglas

Beverly native Neiland Douglas started his career in city planning in Pittsburgh and New York. He later helped the National Council of Churches respond to the needs of the poor. Douglas returned to Beverly in 1973, and as a member of Beverly’s First Baptist Church has been a force behind its development of the Turtle Creek and Turtle Woods affordable apartments for seniors, and Harborlight House, an affordable assisted living center. He spearheaded the development of Beverly House, one of the region’s first community homes for the mentally handicapped, and helped River House, Beverly’s homeless shelter, gain financial stability. Neiland has also championed the YMCA’s Cabot Street renovation and Sterling Center expansion, and the refitting of the Briscoe and Edwards schools.

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