During these times of uncertainty, ordinary people are stepping up in extraordinary ways to give back to the places they call home. Visions Cares and we’re proud to share and give to these efforts that strengthen and uplift the communities so important to our mission.
The Heart of a Hero Spotlight was created to shed light on all the positive things happening right now in the communities we also call home. In addition to these weekly highlights, Visions will also give $500 to support recipients’ heroic efforts.
Finger Lakes Distillery
Finger Lakes Distilling is mass producing hand sanitizer and donating it to medical health professionals, and law enforcement. With their unique capability to manufacture ethanol, they have begun selling the hand sanitizer in bulk and eventually hope to sell in individual size for public distribution. Despite the challenges of navigating the regulatory side of things, the distillery continues to expand the amount of essential business it serves.
Northern Highlands Regional High School
Educators are the heart of America and amid this ever-changing environment, a local teacher is doing his best to keep his students engaged – all while trying to maintain their normal school day routine. Mr. Justin Nadal runs the local high school news channel, NHTV, at the Northern Highlands High School in Allendale, NJ. Even though the students are remote learning, he is still running his weekly student TV show for them to watch. “It is all of us teachers giving back to the students,” he said. “We are all in this together.”
Betty Anne Jansen, owner of Sew Sewcial in Norwich, NY, has been dedicating her time, energy, and business space into making masks for local nursing homes, doctors’ offices, and hospitals. Her unique community business model has helped her rally the support of friends and customers to join in the cause. When asked why she’s been sewing and donating, she put it simply: “I believe that our communities are as good as what we put into them."
Kendra Phillips Langenbach
Kendra Phillips Langenbach is an RN at Atlantic Health Systems Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. Since the pandemic began, she and her colleagues have been working long hours and doing the best they can to take care of themselves and the most vulnerable. Her tireless commitment to the wellbeing of her community goes to show the true heart of a hero. For her, though, she’s just proud to be doing her job. “We became nurses to help people – we don’t consider ourselves heroes, we’re just doing what we were trained to do.”
Sally and Keivan Tayeb
Sally and Keivan Tayeb of Zendiggi Kebab House in Closter, NJ have teamed up with two other restaurants, Buon Gusto and Ma Mi Eatery for their "Buy a Nurse a Lunch" program. So far, they’ve made and delivered over 2,000 meals to local healthcare workers in Bergen and Passaic Counties. When talking about the program, Sally smiles and says, "I love that I get to give back to the hospitals that have helped me and my family throughout the years."
Mike Toledo of Centro Hispano of Reading and Berks County, PA has been working to ensure that they are aiding the most vulnerable population in their community. They are preparing and delivering 2,500 meals per week in collaboration with Meals on Wheels, conducting over-the-phone wellness checks on seniors, and translating important COVID-19 updates into Spanish so that the community can stay informed. Mike puts it simply, “We know our members are the ones who do not have access to this information or understand the severity of what is happening. We are obligated to be a resource they can count on.”
Sally Yablonsky of Owego, NY suffered a devastating loss when she lost her mother to COVID-19. She felt terribly that the EMTs had been exposed to the virus, so she began accepting donations under the name Hugs for RAH RAH RAH, her mother’s initials. All proceeds have gone to feeding local healthcare workers. So far, she’s raised over $11,000 and helped over 70 local, struggling restaurants in her quest to feed those on the front lines. She puts it simply, “This project has been a wonderful thing and has helped my heart heal.”
When the pandemic hit, Jeff Golden, Director of General Services at Ithaca College, New York, transformed the on-campus print shop into a mask and shield production facility. Together with his team, they have made over 6,000 shields and 20,000 masks for front-line workers. When told of his award money, Jeff chose to use the funds to donate another 1,000 masks and 200 shields to Longview, an Ithacare Senior Living Community. That commitment to those in need – and his ability to keep his staff employed – is why Jeff has the Heart of a Hero.
Michael Tumminia of Tony T’s in Greene, NY began providing free meals to school-aged children when the pandemic hit. Once school districts began providing lunches again, he and his team chose to instead donate free meals Tuesday through Friday to individuals over 65 who are experiencing difficulties. With over 10 volunteers and more than 100 meals delivered each week, Tony T’s is making a tasty difference in the community. When told of the award money, Michael simply said, “This award will feed a lot of people – thank you so much!”
Ellen Albright, a founding member of the Berks PPE Resource Network, has worked with individuals and organizations to produce, collect, and distribute FDA-approved 3D printed face shields across Berks County, PA. Together with their volunteers, they have produced nearly 32,000 pieces of Personal Protective Equipment, donating them at no cost to frontline workers and the most vulnerable. Their website puts their mission simply, “Because TOGETHER we can make a difference.”
Kimberly Bogart is a 4th & 5th grade special education teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Binghamton, NY. With schools closed, she has had to spend countless hours on her computer setting up activities and lessons for her students, distributing books, colored pencils, crayons, Mad Libs, and pencil sharpeners. She and her fellow teachers are all “trying to find fun, creative ways to engage the students, as they are now sitting at their computers for extended periods of time.” Her dedication to improving young lives in her community defines the Heart of a Hero.
When the pandemic hit, Alex Nichols, owner of Alexander’s Café in Binghamton, NY, decided he needed to do something to help his community. In the last 12 weeks, he’s provided about 250 free lunches for school age children who relied on their school’s lunch program, and has also donated roughly 30 meals every week for United Health Services healthcare workers. “I tried to put myself in the parents’ shoes and help out as much as possible,” he said, and that extends to his award money, too. He’s donating his $500 to help rebuild the OurSpace playground in Binghamton’s Recreation Park. Talk about a Heart of a Hero.