FARMINGTON — Real heroes don't wear capes, they lend a hand to their neighbors.

That was the message at the Four Corners Chapter of the American Red Cross Real Heroes Awards Ceremony.

For the last three years, the local Red Cross chapter has recognized northwest New Mexico residents for both their brave, selfless acts during an emergency and for their long-term efforts to improve their community. Community members nominated dozens of heroes for an award and Red Cross volunteers, staff and board members chose nine people from those nominations for recognition, said Amanda Romano, the Red Cross community relations manager for northwest New Mexico.

 Donnie Kee, Michele Delese and Ben McGaha are presented with the Law Enforcement Hero award during the American Red Cross Real Heros awards ceremony on
Donnie Kee, Michele Delese and Ben McGaha are presented with the Law Enforcement Hero award during the American Red Cross Real Heros awards ceremony on Friday, June 21, 2013, at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Farmington. (Augusta Liddic The Daily Times )

"You hear about celebrities who volunteer their time and get recognition. But there are people who save lives and volunteer hundreds of hours every year in our community," Romano said. "I think it's important we highlight them every year."

A teenager who volunteered, a military hero, police officers dedicated to preparing local schools for emergencies and a volunteer fire fighter in a small McKinley-county town were a few of the heroes recognized this year.

"Heroes take on many forms. We tend to think it is a reaction immediately to a situation that pops up ... that people are not prepared to be heroes. But I would take issue with that," Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts said during the event. "I think people do prepare to be heroes. They are prepared in the way they are brought up. They are caring people, they are giving people and they want to do what is right."

The Heroes

  • Lauri Roberts-Nutt received the Good Samaritan Youth Hero of the Year Award. Roberts-Nutt is a Farmington teenager who volunteered for 134 hours at Frontline Mission. She helped renovate rooms for people who are trying to recover from addictions, criminal histories, poverty or other issues. Roberts-Nutt said she heard the mission was in need of volunteer work and chose to keep working until a large renovation project was completed.
  • Toby and Helen Chavez received the Good Samaritan Adult Hero of the Year Award. The couple operates Straight Up Ministries, where they work with men and women who are dealing with addictions and other issues. The couple said they were former drug users with a troubled past, but turned their lives around 16 years ago and started helping others. In addition to offering faith-based counseling services, they operate a men's home. Local courts often use the couples' services as a form of alternative sentencing.
  • Joy Woolman received the Fire Rescue Hero of the Year Award. Woolman is a firefighter, emergency medical technician and a nurse in Jamestown, which is near Interstate 40 between Gallup and Grants. She has been a firefighter for 24 years. She responded to one rollover crash on I-40 last year and is credited with saving a man's life by keeping his airway clear, calling for a helicopter and caring for him until it arrived.
  • Farmington police Sgt. Donnie Kee and Officers Michele Delese and Ben McGaha received the Law Enforcement Heroes of the Year award. The three Farmington police officers helped prepare local schools for emergencies by donating radios that were linked with San Juan County Dispatch and giving principals and school staff communications training. Farmington police also conducted shooter drills which forced schools staff and first-responders to practice serious emergencies.
  • Debbie Coburn received the Animal Rescue Hero of the Year Award. Coburn is the director and founder of Four Corners Equine Rescue, In 2012 the rescue took in 59 horses and processed 30 adoptions.
  • Paul Peerenboom received the Emergency Response Hero of the Year Award. Peerenboom was at Elks RV Campground near Navajo Dam on Sept. 9 when Elaine Dean, a woman in the trailer next door, began choking on a plastic piece she accidently swallowed while taking medication. Dean ran to Peerenboom and he was able to do abdominal thrusts, which dislodged the plastic from Dean's throat.
  • Sgt. Jason McClelland received the Military Hero Award. McClelland, a Farmington native, enlisted in the Army in 2008 and has served in Afghanistan and Iraq. While stationed in Afghanistan, McClelland was in formation for a ceremony when a rogue Afghan Army soldier started firing on U.S. troops. McClelland reportedly rallied a group of soldiers and stopped the enemy soldier.
  • Deb Cutler received the Humanitarian of the Year Award. Cutler serves for a long list of local organizations and community efforts. She is on the Farmington Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs Commission, is on the board of directors for the San Juan Regional Medical Center Foundation, has launched a Farmington homework club, started a stroke support group and volunteers for many local causes like Get Pink'D, Wings for Hope and the Walk-A-Thon.
  • Carmen Ray was also recognized at the banquet this year. Ray started to volunteer for the Red Cross in 2012 by knitting blankets for families in need. Not long after starting as a volunteer for the agency, Ray was diagnosed with breast cancer. During Ray's battle with cancer, she continued to make blankets for others.


Ryan Boetel covers crime and San Juan County for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him @rboetel on Twitter.