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Alamo residents honored as county Red Cross heroes

The American Red Cross' Bay Area chapter recently announced the recipients of its Contra Costa County heroes awards. The annual program celebrates everyday heroes and recognizes local individuals and organizations that make a difference in their community through acts of extraordinary courage and kindness.

A father and son were among the six honorees, bestowed with the lifesaving hero award.

Father and son Randy and Kyle Harrell risked their lives to save their 96-year old neighbor and family dog whose Via Aspero house caught fire. On May 7, Randy and Kyle, 22, jumped their fence and ran next door after seeing flames coming from the front of their neighbor's home.

After encountering a 54-year-old man with a fire extinguisher at the front of the house, the two went to the back door and found the man's mother in the kitchen, which was quickly becoming filled with smoke. Randy Harrell told reporters that he carried the woman, who uses a walker, out of the home and over the fence to his son; he also rescued the family's dog.

The Red Cross will also recognize the following citizens and organizations:

- Act of courage hero: Gurmail Billa put himself in harm's way to help out a police officer who was attacked by several gang members in Hayward.

- Act of kindness and philanthropy hero (individual): Doug Stewart is the founder of Central County Outreach in Martinez, where he has made it his mission and has dedicated countless volunteer hours to solve the homeless crisis.

- Animal rescue hero: Monika Helgemo has been the animal services manager at the Antioch Animal Shelter for the past 24 years but continues to develop fostering programs while volunteering to administer care for puppies, kittens and ducklings in her own home.

- Community service hero (individual): Laura Graham, a sophomore at Bishop O'Dowd High School, created 1 Closet, a program which collects gently used and new clothing that has helped over 300 low income teenagers to date.

-Community service hero (organization): Contra Costa County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team (SAR) is one of the busiest teams in the county with 59 members donating over 44,000 hours of community service to SAR missions, medical event support, public relations and training.

Winners will be honored at an awards breakfast on Friday, Oct. 5 at the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville.

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