2012-13 Indiana Heroes Award Recipients

The Indiana Heroes program presented by Citizens Energy Group serves as one of the premier community outreach programs of the Indiana Pacers. This program honors an individual(s) who have made an overwhelming impact on the lives of others and who, through their unique commitment and humanitarian spirit, have made exceptional and lasting contributions to our community and our State.

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The Indiana Pacers are now accepting nominations Indiana Pacers Indiana Heroes Award Program presented by Citizens Energy Group. Click Here to nominate a neighbor, friend or relative who is a firefighter, policeman, rescue worker, or just an everyday hero like a teacher, nurse or community leader making a difference. Nominations must include the nominee’s name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone number and email address, along with a short description of why this nominee is deserving of the award. The description should include examples of the nominee’s level of commitment, as well as any lasting contributions to the community.

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Dave Quear, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Dave Quear

November 3, 2012

Dave Quear is a man on a mission. His good friend, Kevin McAdams, has been fighting for his life, diagnosed last year with Multiple Myeloma – a rare, incurable, bone-marrow cancer. Seeing the burden and struggle facing McAdams, Quear decided to do something. For 4 days in October, Quear walked from Louisville to Indianapolis – a 111-mile journey – to raise awareness and financial support for McAdams and his family. Sacrificing his own commitments to promote this mission, Dave has displayed the most selfless act and defined what it means to be an Indiana Hero.

See Photos from Dave Quear's Award Ceremony »

IMPD Officer Michael Wolley

Michael Wolley - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

November 10, 2012

Officer Wolley, in his current assignment with the (Youth Violence Reduction Team) YVRT reached out and established a working relationship with Habitat for Humanity. Through the work of Habitat, thousands of low-income families have found new hope in the form of affordable housing. Churches, community groups and others have joined together with Habitat for Humanity to successfully tackle a significant social problem which in turn has a positive impact on high crime areas in the inner city. To his credit Officer Wolley brought with him other police officers and at risk youth within the YVRT to help with the building of some of these homes in the inner city of Indianapolis. In addition to bringing physical labor to these projects, Officer Wolley is helping to provide extra security for the worksites. To accomplish this task he notifies the district supervisors of the builds and sets up extra patrols in the area. Along with the extra patrols, he and other YVRT members personally make spot checks of the sites during non-construction hours to make sure there were no thefts/ vandalism, etc., occurring on the properties. Officer Wolley has done this for at least 4 sites if not more since April of 2012; as well as a current build underway, for which he recently announced that he was looking for his next group of volunteers.

Officer Wolley’s actions are an exemplary example of Police partnering with other organizations to enhance and have a positive impact in the community. His actions also has a positive impact on at risk youth who participate in the partnership; providing them with positive activities to direct their attention to and in many cases exposing them to the skilled construction work that they have an interest in.

See Photos from Michael Wolley's Award Ceremony »

Chuck Ridpath and Nathan Long, Indiana Heroes Award Recipients

Firefighters Chuck Ridpath & Nathan Long

November 16, 2012

On the night of August 22, these two City of Franklin Firefighters led their department by working through extreme fire and smoke conditions to execute the evacuation of a sleeping occupant from a house fire. Their actions led to the rescue of an elderly woman who was unaware that the front of her home was on fire and quickly spreading to her bedroom.

See Photos from Chuck Ridpath & Nathan Long's Award Ceremony »

Ann Dobbins - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

American Red Cross Volunteer Transportation Drivers Represented by Volunteer Driver Ann Dobbins

November 21, 2012

Ann Dobbins represents all of the American Red Cross dedicated volunteer transportation drivers. Last year, Ann and her teammates drove over 3,300 round-trips to ensure 914 Marion County residents, who had no other resources, were able to get to their preventative and life-saving medical appointments. Thanks to Ann and the other volunteers, one client was able to successfully complete dialysis before undergoing a successful kidney transplant. If your get up and go needs someplace to go, please consider become a Red Cross volunteer driver.

See Photos from Ann Dobbins' Award Ceremony »

McDonald Family - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

The McDonald Family: Kirk, Kyle, David & Andrew

November 23, 2012

A family pulled from the rubble of their home is recovering with some stitches and scrapes after they were rescued by neighbors who lived a block away. While everyone was running to safety that night, the McDonalds ran in the opposite direction – toward the explosion. The family heard screaming and saw that a wall had collapsed on a nearby home. They went inside and found a family of four covered in debris and two-by-fours. The McDonald’s quickly brought this family to the first responders after the home became engulfed in flames. Only then did they look to seek shelter themselves. Kirk McDonald indicated that they moved quickly without thinking about what they were doing and just had to go help.

See Photos from the McDonald Family's Award Ceremony »

SPC Matthew Canaan

December 7, 2012

Matthew Canaan - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

SPC Matthew Canaan has done two combat tours to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division 2-87 Light Infantry Battalion. While deployed, Sgt. Canaan, a huge Pacers fan, handed out small Pacers basketballs to the local nationals and Afghani children and talked to them about Indiana’s great basketball history. SPC Canaan was recently medically discharged from the Army for injuries sustained while in Afghanistan. He volunteered to join the army out of patriotism for his country and to keep fellow Hoosiers safe.

IMPD Detective Chester Price

December 12, 2012

Chester Price - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Detective Price was approached by the Boy Scouts of America because he is a longtime leader in the organization and an Eagle Scout. The group was seeking assistance for a sixth grade Boy Scout who, as the result of a difficult family situation, was now living with his grandmother. Because of the urgency of this situation, it was necessary for the young man to leave behind all of his belongings, including his Boy Scout uniform. Even during this difficult time for her grandson, the young man’s grandmother saw his strong desire to attend camp, and she understood the importance of what the experience could bring to her him at this critical time in their lives. However, it was impossible for her grandson to go to Boy Scouts Camp without his uniform.

Since Detective Price appreciated the positive value and influence the Boy Scouts had provided him, he immediately organized an effort to help by calling upon fellow officers, asking them for donations of clothing and Boy Scout uniform gear. His immediate goal was to provide the young man his needs for camp, but he also wanted to make a difference by giving the young man positive role models and the chance to enjoy a fun environment. His leadership brought together IMPD officers in a joint effort that resulted in an outpouring of donations of clothing, camping gear, and monetary contributions. Detective Price’s actions made it possible for this young man to attend the summer camp during which the young man was able to obtain his 2nd Class rank!

Not only did this young Scout get everything that he needed to participate, but the outpouring of support to Detective Price’s efforts produced an abundance of donations that are now available to assist future Scouts facing adversity.

Detective Price’s care and concern for his community illustrate the very best in public service. His efforts started as a cause for one, but rippled into a wave of compassion that influenced an ever-widening circle of both those in need and those inspired to give. Detective Price’s dedicated and generous spirit has made a difference that will continue into the future. Now, at-risk Boy Scouts in our community have a dedicated champion that they can depend on, and whose help is just a telephone call away.

See Photos from Chester Price's Award Ceremony »

Patrick Gladden

December 14, 2012

Patrick Gladden - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Emergency crews were called to a retention pond in Lafayette after a driver went over a curb and his car became submerged. However, before they could arrive, Patrick Gladden and one other by-stander rushed to the driver’s aid. They immediately sprinted down and jumped in to help. Gladden swam out to get a tire iron and then swam back in to help break the window. They were able to pull the driver out of the car and then stood on the roof of the car and waited for the Fire Department.

American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Team, represented by Beth Stiers and Mary Clifford

December 19, 2012

American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Team, represented by Beth Stiers and Mary Clifford - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

The Disaster Mental Health Team (DMH Team is available 24/7 to provide emotional and grief support to those affected by a disaster) responds to families that have experienced a single family fire to communities affected by tornadoes, floods, and other natural or man-made disasters.

Most recently, Red Cross DMH was on the scene the night of the state fair stage disaster and the night of the Richmond Hills explosion. Beth was recently deployed to New Jersey for Hurricane Sandy and last March, Mary was deployed to southern Indiana for the tornado disaster. The team was organized 12 years ago and initially funded nationally by the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation to train licensed mental health professionals across the country to assist with the emotional needs of people affected by disasters.

In that time members of the team have responded to numerous single and multi-family fires, tornadoes and flooding around the state. Nationally, they have deployed to hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and Mississippi; tornadoes in Kentucky, Kansas, and Georgia; flooding in Tennessee and the east coast; and wild fires in California. Currently there are 40 members of the Greater Indianapolis team.

See Photos from the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Team's Award Ceremony »

Indiana State Troopers Brian McCall, Gary Runde and Ryan Purkiser

January 2, 2013

Indiana State Troopers Brian McCall, Gary Runde and Ryan Purkiser - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

These three Indiana State Troopers are being credited with helping to save the life of a man on the University of Notre Dame Campus. Troopers McCall, Runde and Purkiser were on foot patrol before the Stanford-Notre Dame football game earlier this year and had ducked inside a bookstore to get out of the rain when they were informed of a man that had collapsed and wasn’t breathing.

They found the man also had no pulse and they performed CPR until medics arrived. In addition, in late 2011, Runde also saved the life of a woman choking on food at an area restaurant.

Officer Jeffrey A. Patterson

January 5, 2013

Indiana State Troopers Brian McCall, Gary Runde and Ryan Purkiser - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

IMPD Officer Jeffrey Patterson has been quietly helping to make a difference for many members of our Indianapolis community for a number of years by giving free self-defense classes. By volunteering his time and know-how, he makes a marked difference in the lives of many who otherwise could not afford the opportunity to learn possible life-saving skills and gain more confidence in the knowledge that they can defend themselves if the need arises.

Officer Patterson views the sharing of his time and talents to teach self-defense to many of our senior citizens, children, and women and men of all ages as a heart-felt and personal calling that he must answer. During his classes he not only benefits the students, but he also benefits others organizations such Gleaners by the simple act of asking participants to bring a canned food item in exchange for their lessons. In addition, Officer Patterson gives of his time and talents with weekly free kick-boxing instructions. He also is quick to lend his talents to raise funds to aid fellow officers injured in the line of duty. As if all of this is not enough, Officer Patterson is preparing to make a difference in our community on a bigger scale through the sharing of his gifts to provide free, self-defense training to the members of a soon to be deployed Psych Operations.

Officer Patterson’s inspiration to share his special talents, gift of teaching and dedication to his community comes from his heart, and it has made a positive impact on so many people. He is always readily available to lend a hand; he has empowered the defenseless and is a role model for giving.

Bill and Bonnie Sweeney

January 12, 2013

Bill and Bonnie Sweeney are Red Cross volunteers, serving as a couple in Disaster Services and in Service to Armed Forces.

Not only are they on Hancock County’s Disaster Action Team (DAT), but they have been known to help out in four nearby Hamilton, Marion, Madison and Henry counties when needed. DAT members are often called out on weekends, evenings and nights to provide emergency relief for food, clothing, shelter and other basic needs to area residents touched by disasters, including home fires. Their friendly faces and warm, genuinely caring hearts are welcome relief to people who have had their lives turned upside down by disaster.

Red Cross Service to Armed Forces or SAF is a program particularly close to the Sweeney’s hearts. They know the challenging ins and out of military service because they have experienced them firsthand from all angles. Between them, they have been and are military children, spouses, parents, in-laws and service members themselves. As volunteers they give Red Cross “Get To Know Us Before You Need Us” educational presentations at military briefings and family days. They also work at SAF booths at fairs and events where as you can imagine, they provide visitors with a wealth of invaluable information.

Michael Koerner

January 18, 2013

Michael Koerner - Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

A junior at Herron High School in Indianapolis, Michael Koerner helped save the lives of a family trapped inside their home in the Richmond Hill neighborhood. Michael was driving home through the neighborhood when the explosion rocked his car. He is unable to remember what happened next, but to help rescue this family and get to their home, he had to run through his backyard, duck under some trees and hop a fence.

He ended up in the area where the explosion originated where he saw the back wall of a home had fallen down and there were people inside. He dove in and started throwing debris away and helping the family out, in addition to risking his own life. Michael is just one of the heroes that night in Richmond Hill, many of them still unknown, but through neighbors, we continue to salute their acts of heroism.

Rhonda Curry, Jeffey Oliver, Chad Basey and Randy Jones

February 1, 2013

Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

In late December, a Honda Pilot attempted to change lanes, when the driver lost control of the car, left the roadway, and crashed through a fence and entered an icy lake. Inside, were a mother and her 5-year old daughter. When Rhonda Curry saw the accident, she knew she had to do something.

Curry ran to help, calling 911 and instructing the driver to roll down their windows. She then began flagging down other drivers for help. Jeffrey Oliver, Chad Basey and Randy Jones all stopped to assist, jumping into the icy lake, trying to reach the SUV, which was sinking about 50 feet away. Oliver, Basey and Jones helped both the daughter and mom safely back to shore as their car continued to sink to the bottom of the lake. A former operation specialist for the US Navy, Basey said he didn’t think twice about jumping in and trying to save the mother and daughter.

Officers Donna Hayes and Charles Pearsey

February 8, 2013

Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

As part of his daily assignments Officer Pearsey of the IMPD North District responds to many calls for help throughout his shift, and some of these calls involve victims of domestic violence. Although, his dedication to his duty to protect and serve all of the members of our community, the calls for help from the victims of domestic violence take on a special significance for Officer Pearsey, and without hesitation he goes above and beyond for these victims, big and small who are affected by this type of crime.

When he answers runs involving domestic violence he takes on a greater concern for the victims of this type of crime, and he has twice received recognition for his efforts during his investigations of domestic violence. Long after others may have forgotten about these victims, Officer Pearsey’s genuine concern for their well-being is an example for all of us to follow. Giving freely of his own time he remains invested with the victims and he helps them to navigate through, and has followed up to see that they get the help they needed.

The initiatives implemented by IMPD to address domestic violence have benefited greatly from having Officer Pearsey on the team. So much so that he has been recognized by the people whose job it is to improve the lives of the victims this issue creates.

As a result of Officer Pearsey’s dedication, the Baker One Project is an approach of grouping police reports in a way to identify potentially high-risk offenders for domestic violence homicide or serious assault. The Baker One protocol, in addition to physically violent crime, looks at a list of 23 indicator crimes - including invasion of privacy, harassment, and vandalism - to determine if an offender exhibits escalating or habitual offenses. Once a suspect is identified as a Baker One offender, an IMPD officer attempts to do early intervention by speaking with them outside of a call to the home and offering resources for help. The “Baker One” designation follows the suspect throughout the investigation by IMPD detectives and also through prosecution efforts. The overall goal is to prevent these lesser crimes from escalating into something fatal or seriously violent.

IMPD’s Northwest District Baker One Project began operating in June 2012, and at that time Detective Donna Hayes became the Baker One Detective for the District, since this time she has since been able to identify 11 Baker One suspects on the Northwest District. Detective Hayes is diligent in pursuing any charges that she needs to file, and since the project’s initiation she has taken on 140 cases. Because of her strong believe in being a part of the solution to help stem the tide of domestic violence, Det. Hayes voluntarily takes any cases involving the suspected abusers in her own cases that the suspected abusers might have committed elsewhere on any the other five IMPD Districts.

As a result of her commitment to this cause and her passion to help the victims get out of their situation, and to help provide the victims with some of the tools necessary to change their lives, she has initiated a women’s empowerment series at the Abington Apartments on the Northwest District. During her sessions Detective Hayes provides the women with key resource information on getting help that can help strengthen their efforts to change their lives and help keep them out of abusive situations. Not only does Det. Hayes efforts bring the individuals comfort, her efforts also helps to give them more confidence, and assures them that they can depend on her and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department for support.

Detective Donna Hayes has embraced the Baker One project as her own and is dedicated to making sure that the community members on IMPD’s Northwest District are aware of this vital resource, her genuine passion to help women and men remain safe from the harm of domestic violence is the driving force that keeps her freely giving of her time and talents to our entire community.

Connie Rufenbarger

February 20, 2013

Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Connie Rufenbarger, one of the American Red Cross 2012 Hall of Fame Awards honorees, is the co-founder and driving force behind the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center. The Komen Tissue Bank is the only repository in the world for normal breast tissue and matched serum, plasma and DNA. By studying normal tissue, they accelerate research for the causes and prevention of breast cancer. To more deeply understand the evolution of the disease, it is necessary to compare abnormal, cancerous tissue against normal, healthy tissue. Described as a “force of nature”, Connie is committed to making a difference by acting as an advocate for thinking, sharing and understanding NORMAL.

Cindi Moon and Jo Ann Morris

February 22, 2013

Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Cindi and Jo Ann are both nurses and members of the Red Cross First Aid Team. Cindi has served as volunteer since 1986 and Jo Ann since 1992. A part of the Red Cross First Aid Team, they provide basic first aid at community events such as Indianapolis Indians home games, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Indiana State Fair, etc. They are on site at these events to help individuals who are hurt or sick; represent the Red Cross to those who have questions on their services; promote teach by teaching accident prevention and signs of when to seek further help and provide support to injured and ill individuals and their families.

Amber Kreich

March 3, 2013

Amber Kreich, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Amber Kriech started volunteering almost as soon as she could walk, first collecting shoes for kids in third-world countries through a program at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Now attending Carmel High School, her numerous service works include collecting more than 4,000 food items and 2,000 books to benefit the children at the East Tenth United Methodist Church Children and Youth Center, and building a volunteer team of 45 people ages 6 to 80 who give 2,000 volunteer hours supporting homeless children through the Spiritual Life Center, a center she and her team created.

For her incredible work, Amber received The Governor’s Service Awards in 2012 - one of the state’s most prestigious awards for volunteer service - which honors the exemplary work of statewide nominees on behalf of their communities and the state.

Keith Smedema

March 15, 2013

Keith Smedema, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

When Keith Smedema caught a glimpse of something tumbling over the White River bridge, he knew he had a decision to make. After hearing a splash below, he then heard a helpless woman cry out for help in the icy river. Although others began calling 911, he knew he had to help her immediately. He hopped the railing and plunged 40-feet into the river to rescue a stranger. As he swam toward her he found a sandbar and waited there with her until IFD rescuers brought them to safety.

Capt. James Reno

March 19, 2013

Capt. James Reno, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Captain James Reno of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has been involved with Special Olympics Indiana for more than 18 years. The mission of Special Olympics is to increase awareness and raise funds for local Special Olympics athletes’ programs, and promotes the message of acceptance and inclusion of all those with intellectual disabilities. The athletes’ creed is “Let me win, but if cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

During his involvement with Special Olympics Indiana Captain Reno was the driving force behind getting our local Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) up and running. This event is the largest grassroots fundraising movement supporting Special Olympics. Captain Reno has been the police department’s liaison for this organization for many years. He has participated in and helped organize virtually every Law Enforcement Torch Run related event in the city and involves more and more local officers each year. He personally helped to implement numerous new fundraising ideas locally that were profiled at past international conferences including the Polar Plunge, Plane Pull, Over the Edge, Largest Truck Convoy, Motorcycle Raffle, Motorcycle Ride and the Sailing Regatta along with selling T-Shirts and procuring donations. In addition, he continues to make Law Enforcement Torch Run presentations to police recruit classes and police command staff.

For years, Captain Reno has been and continues to be one of the go to persons that Special Olympics Indiana contacts to coordinate and provide Law Enforcement Torch Run resources. He served four years on Special Olympics Indiana board of directors and was a member of two standing sub-committees. He consistently ranked in the top 20% of the board members for number of activities participated in and money donated and raised. He has been honored by Special Olympics Indiana as a co-recipient of the first "Dennis Schmidt Impact Award - For Your Extraordinary Efforts". He has not missed a Special Olympics Summer Games opening ceremony for over ten years, and was given the honor to run the torch and assist the athlete with lighting the cauldron on two occasions. The location is seventy miles away so he spends the night and helps the next day by staffing the Law Enforcement Torch Run tent and participating in medal presentations. As he moves throughout the event, he constantly promotes good will with every passing attendee.

Jim & Sandy Tharp

March 22, 2013

Jim & Sandy Tharp, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Jim & Sandy Tharp joined the American Red Cross (ARC) after attending local volunteer recruitment meeting. Although Sandy was still working full-time the Tharp’s completed all the training requirements for Disaster Services and deployed in support of the Hurricane Wilma relief effort. Since Hurricane Wilma, Jim has deployed on ten (10) national disasters, including floods, tornados and most recently Superstorm Sandy. Ironically, Sandy’s volunteer responsibilities include deploying Jim!

This amazing couple’s commitment to the local ARC is equally as strong. Since joining the American Red Cross, the Tharp’s have served as local Disaster Action Team members, taken every training class available and continue to volunteer hundreds of hours in the local office supporting every aspect of the Red Cross in their community.

Ellen Annalla and Scott Clabaugh

March 25, 2013

Ellen Annalla and Scott Clabaugh, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

As true heroes of the non-profit community, Ellen Annalla, President and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana, and Scott Clabaugh, Scout Executive for Crossroads of America Council will both retire in 2013 after a combined 35 years of service to our community.

After 15 years of serving as President and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana, Ellen Annala will retire in a few weeks. Ellen’s extraordinary leadership, passion and dedication have not only been a blessing to Central Indiana, but an inspiration to her fellow community leaders. Under her guidance, United Way has made a positive difference for hundreds of thousands of children, families and individuals.

After 20 years of serving as Scout Executive for Crossroads of America Council, Boy Scouts of America, Scott Clabaugh will also soon retire. Scott indicates that “It’s been a privilege to serve the Scouts, their families, our staff and our tremendously passionate volunteers.” Our success is in providing high quality, Scout programs and wonderful camps. Recently Scott was given the Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Daniels. The prestigious honor is the highest distinction designated by the governor of Indiana.

Tim Balz

April 5, 2013

Tim Balz, Indiana Heroes Award Recipient

Tim Balz is the Founder and President of Freedom Chairs, where as their mission statement says - helping is more than our hobby. For their hard work, Tim and Freedom Chairs was recently inducted into the Greater Indianapolis Red Cross Hall of Fame.

Freedom Chairs exists through the help and hard work of other Plainfield High School student volunteers, who dedicate their skills and time to help others. Freedom Chairs is dedicated to providing mobility for anyone in need – free of charge. In just over a year, Tim and his group of volunteers has been able to provide more than 30 people the gift of mobility.

A senior at Plainfield High School, Tim wants to study mechanical engineering and robotics at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and wants to apply that education to developing medical devices that improve quality of life for people with challenges.

The volunteers at Freedom Chairs do not receive any compensation for their work, but receive an enormous amount of pride and satisfaction every time they see the smiles on the faces of those they have helped become mobile.

For more information on how you can help Freedom Chairs, visit www.freedomchairs.org.

Joyce Gibson & Lori Mohr

April 12, 2013

Joyce Gibson and Lori Mohr, Indiana Heroes Award Recipients

Joyce & Lori are both Youth volunteers for the American Red Cross. Joyce is a frequent volunteer on the American Red Cross Bookmobile, helping to distribute over 20,000 books annually to children in Title 1 schools. She also participates as a volunteer at local youth related events helping to spread the word about disaster preparedness and safety. Lori is the liaison between the American Red Cross and Sallie Mae, helping to coordinate volunteers from Sallie Mae for the Red Cross Bookmobile Program. Lori has also participated many times herself as a volunteer on the Bookmobile helping to distribute 1,000s of books to students at Title 1 schools.

The goal of the Bookmobile is to provide “high interest” books to children to encourage them to read. The Bookmobile visits select Title 1 schools three times throughout the school year and these volunteers are crucial to the program, selecting books for the Bookmobile, organizing and restocking the Book Room and the Bookmobile, and most importantly helping children select books.