(CHICAGO, IL) – Lazenia Adams of Richton Park saw a news report on television one morning about American Red Cross volunteers helping a family after a home fire.
“A feeling hit me that this could have been my family,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Do I have the time to do this?’ And I said yes.”
An accountant by day, Lazenia did the math and found some time each week to volunteer on the overnight shift from midnight to 6 a.m. Two years later and after having responded to more than 300 home fires as a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, one response hit home. The house her parents owned on the South Side of Chicago where her brother lived on the second floor above renters caught fire. Luckily, no one was home when the fire started.
“Even though I didn’t live there, it felt like it was my home because I spent a lot of time there with my family,” she said. “It was overwhelming because now I really understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of all the people I’ve helped after a fire.”
Lazenia not only responds to fires, she works to prevent them. She became involved with the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, a multi-year initiative to dramatically reduce the number of home fire-related injuries and deaths by installing smoke alarms in homes and teaching families how to develop an emergency escape route. Lazenia has led volunteer teams to install more than 3,000 smoke alarms in neighborhoods south of Chicago near her family’s home.
Two months after installing smoke alarms in the home of an elderly man in Phoenix, a community of 2,000 located about 20 miles south of Chicago, Lazenia was called to a local hospital to help a resident who had been taken there after a fire. Lazenia said the gentleman recognized and hugged her, telling her a smoke alarm she installed in his home a few months earlier went off and he was able to get out.
“I was in tears,” she said. “He told me I’m the one who saved his life. It’s all about helping people in our community. You really can make a difference.”
The Disaster Services Award is presented by W. W. Grainger, Inc., to an individual(s) who exhibited heroic efforts in any or all areas of disaster services including preparedness, response to a natural disaster or emergency situation, or providing relief to victims through financial or voluntary assistance.
The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is honoring local people who demonstrated acts of heroism in the community at the organization’s 14th annual Heroes Breakfast, Thursday, April 28 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. For more information: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/local/il/chicago/American-Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes.
Written by: Patricia Kemp, Communications Manager American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois