Who Is Leading This Cause?

In the fallout of 9/11, many Americans desperately wanted to help. Among them, a group of people at Sunset Mall in West Texas, led by Pamela Howell, initiated a special program called “Shoeboxes of Support.” The idea of the program was to utilize mall and community resources to fill empty shoeboxes with relief items and personal notes of encouragement for New York City firefighters and rescue workers.

As a result of Sunset Mall’s “Shoeboxes of Support” program, L&H Real Estate Group (mall owner) has established valuable relationships with influential and honorable people in New York City’s fire, rescue and emergency Units. Among them is New York CRMS Chief Rosendo Velez. Rosey Velez has had a 15-year career as a medical first responder and was named the Director of Security for the Ground Zero Relief Organization, a position he held until clean up efforts came to an end in May 2002. Most recently, Rosey was promoted to Chief of Operations with the New York State Critical Response Medical Squad and co-chairman of the World Trade Center EMS Memorial Foundation.

Also key to the cause is George Contreras. Contreras brings a wealth of experience in public health and emergency services to the effort. He currently serves as the Director of the Health Research Training Program and Coordinator of Emergency Preparedness for the Bureau of Public Health Training of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Like Velez, Contreras is committed to seeing the completion of the Emergency Services Respite Center, balancing his day job with the “job of his heart.”

Marketing expertise for the Emergency Services Respite Center comes from two executives at L&H Real Estate Group -- Carol O’Grady, the company’s Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications in Chicago, and Pamela Howell, the marketing director of Sunset Mall in San Angelo, Texas, who led the “Shoeboxes of Support” campaign that resulted in the delivery of 3,000 shoeboxes filled with relief items and encouraging notes to Ground Zero rescue workers in October, 2001.

In addition, Carol and Pam have solicited the passionate support of many other professionals in the shopping center industry -- all with one goal in mind -- to assist Velez and Contreras in opening the Emergency Services Respite Center.

Rosey, George and their supporters have rallied support from many other key people in the New York EMS system to launch the Emergency Services Respite Center. Their efforts have already earned an $111,000 grant, a $12,000 private donation, and the contribution of office space from a local church for fundraising headquarters. An estimated $250,000 each year for 50 states and the Distrcit of Columbia is needed to operate the facility long term.