Washington (PAI) – Saving a terrified 10-year-old boy from the clutches of a child molester is not exactly in a Letter Carrier's normal job description, but it became so last May for Christy Perfetti and Steve Plunkett of NALC Branch 31 in Peoria, Ill.
Not only that, but Plunkett and Perfetti tracked the molester after their supervisor got the boy away into the safety of the Peoria post office. The tracking led to the man's arrest – and the molester is now serving a life term in Illinois.
That valor led the Letter Carriers to recognize Perfetti, Plunkett, their Peoria colleagues and four other Letter Carriers nationwide at the union's annual “Heroes of the Year” awards ceremony, held Sept. 10.
All the honorees are examples of “courage, compassion and dedication or all three,” said Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando. “They do these things because they're in the neighborhoods six or seven days a week – and they know when something's wrong.
“Having watched the kids grow up and the parents age, they know what's going on,” he added. “And each will downplay what he or she did, and go back to delivering the mail.”
While NALC has rewarded individual heroism and community service for years, the Peoria post office received the union’s first-ever Unit Citation Award for Heroism, recognizing Perfetti and Plunkett as well as their supervisor, Stacie Pence-Bailey, and two other colleagues, Steve Hamas and Karen Leitner, all of whom aided in the rescue.
As Perfetti pulled into the post office parking lot one day last May, she saw a man shepherding a frightened boy across the blacktop. When the man took the boy behind the post office shed, Perfetti ran inside and alerted Pence-Bailey, who accompanied her back out, as did Plunkett. The man had earlier grabbed the boy at knifepoint.
The sobbing boy said “No, you're not my father,” when Pence-Bailey questioned them. She got the boy away and took him inside to safety. The man ran, and the two carriers pursued him, with Plunkett taking photos. That helped police track and catch the man.
“If you ever see a situation like this, don't be afraid to step up to the plate,” Perfetti said.
Plunkett, Perfetti and their colleagues were typical of the NALC heroes the union honors every year.
Other honorees were:
• National Hero of the Year Jermaine Shirley, of the Bronx, NY, and Branch 379, who smelled smoke coming from his apartment building as he was leaving for work at Branch 379 in Greenwich, CT, last December, and ran back inside to alert his neighbors and call 911.
When Shirley found that his neighbor, Everdean Codner, had his hands full with 11-month-old twin boys, Shirley, climbed on a shed below the fire escape and convinced Codner to drop the boys to him one-by-one.
The apartment building was extensively damaged, but nobody was seriously hurt.
• Western Region Hero of the Year Steve Filson, of Bend, Ore., and Branch 1937, who saved his union brother Jim Lascurin in 2012, after Lascurin collapsed in the Bend parking garage with heart failure.
Physicians later said that had Filson, a former Navy medic, not acted immediately by giving Lascurin CPR, Lascurin would have died.
• Central Region Hero of the Year Jim Rurik of Columbus, Ohio, Branch 78, who saved a man who ran burning from his apartment after having tried to start a fire in his fireplace using lighter fluid.
Rurik got the man to drop on the ground, then used his jacket to smother the flames before entering the building to alert other residents.
• Eastern Region Hero of the Year Robert George and his son, who rescued a trucker whose rig suffered a mechanical failure, spun out of control and smashed into a house in Leicester, Mass. George, of Massachusetts Branch 12, pulled the dazed driver from the burning truck just before it exploded.
• Humanitarian of the Year Orlando Gonzalez of New York City Branch 26, who organizes an annual fund-raising run for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, NALC's top charitable cause. The run, named after the late NALC President and Branch 26 member Vincent Sombrotto, raised more than $20,000 this year.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, NALC honored an early member, Victor Green, who died in 1960, with its Legacy Award for the unusual way he battled Jim Crow racism.
Working in his off hours from his Harlem route and using his contacts with other Letter Carriers in the union's early days nationwide, Green created The Negro Motorist Green Book in 1936.
The book told African-Americans at which black-owned and white-owned hotels, restaurants, inns and private homes they could eat and sleep on their travels nationwide and sold tens of thousands of copies each year before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed.