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 DoubleTree by Hilton Boston North Shore in Danvers. Here are this year’s local heroes.
Enduring Hero: Neiland Douglas
Beverly native Neiland Douglas started his career in city planning in Pittsburgh and New York and 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, he 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. Douglas has also championed the YMCA’s Cabot Street renovation and Sterling Center expansion, and the refitting of the Briscoe and Edwards schools.
Community Hero: Jeanne Hennessey
Jeanne Hennessey, the former owner of Lorraine Roy Designer Collections in Danvers, uses her fashion expertise and business acumen to organize successful fundraisers for the Huntington’s Disease Society and the breast cancer program at Mass General’s North Shore Cancer Center, among other charities. She has been active with the Danver’s Education Enrichment Partnership, which she founded to raise scholarships for teachers and professional groups such as the North Shore Women in Business.
Community Hero: Brian Gonsalves
Brian Gonsalves, a paramedic at Atlantic Ambulance Service, was concerned that the size and complexity of school buildings in his hometown of Peabody could confuse emergency workers and slow their responses. On his own time, he developed guides that use satellite imagery to indicate access routes and numbered school doors to help responders orient themselves. Gonsalves discussed training procedures for schools with the superintendent and plans to prepare guides for other school systems in this area.