The first-ever Winston-Salem Housing Authority Heroes celebration was held Tuesday during the monthly meeting of the agency’s Board of Commissioners.
The Housing Authority showed its appreciation to employees and community partners who go above and beyond the call of duty to help the agency and its residents.
“Today, we are going to honor some very special individuals who have done extraordinary things,” HAWS Human Resources and Public Relations Director Alisa Quick told the capacity audience that packed the meeting room for the lunchtime gathering.
Riverside, Calif. native Louis Todd was an honoree. Todd, who works in HAWS’ maintenance unit, has earned the moniker “superman” after his actions on Sept. 6.
“I left work from Cleveland Avenue Homes, and I got on the freeway. Right there, I noticed traffic was heavy, but there was no obstruction. I looked to the right and I saw a car in a ditch. It was overturned,” said the father of three. “I thought it was my son’s car because I have pulled him out of the ditch once already and he works nearby.”
Todd rushed to survey the wreckage and learned that the youngest passenger, two year-old Janarri Wright, was nowhere to be found. A quick inspection of the interior revealed no sign of the infant. Todd walked around behind the car and made a grizzly discovery.
“The car was upside down on top of the little guy – all I saw was his foot sticking out,” he related. “I thought he was dead.”
Todd called Janarri’s name and the child responded, so Todd lifted the car up and in one swift motion whisked him away from harm. Janarri sustained fractures to both his arms and his skull and extensive cuts on his face and was rushed to the hospital, where he spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit. Gerrod Hardy, a Winston-Salem Fire Department engineer, says Janarri owes his life to Todd’s quick thinking.
“It was through Mr. Todd’s heroic efforts that this child survived this terrible accident,” Hardy wrote in a letter recommending Todd for the Housing Authority honor. “His efforts on this date did not go unnoticed.”
Janarri’s mother, Cieda Dobson, was on hand for the ceremony, as were his uncle, Antwon Dobson and great-grandmother Gwen Dobson. His mother, who was not in the car at the time of the accident, said she learned of Todd’s heroism from her mother and younger sister when she arrived at the hospital.
“I was just thanking God he was there at the right place at the right time,” she declared.
The family presented Todd with a handwritten card expressing their gratitude. He was visibly moved as he read the inscriptions from Janarri’s loved ones.
“It’s kind of humbling,” Todd confessed. “I’m just grateful that I was there and able to help them. It was a scary day.”
Also during the meeting, Vice President and CFO Martha Dorsey feted Assistant Police Chief Alonzo Thompson, Sgt. Cecilia Singletary and Cpl. William Patterson, all of the Winston-Salem Police Department, for their efforts in keeping HAWS communities safe, and a contingent of BB&T employees for a beautification project they did at the Cleveland Avenue Homes last month.
“They have put in time and effort to make sure our development looked better, felt better and people had a sense of pride in where they lived. They have gone way, way out of their way,” Dorsey said, turning to the volunteers. “We all know by your example how just one day can make a big difference for all of us.”
HAWS COO Karen Durell presented awards to Fire Chief Antony Farmer and Deputy Fire Marshall Norman Mitchell for their role in helping the Housing Authority secure 700 Fire Stop devices to help protect tenants and properties from fires that begin on stovetops. The Housing Authority’s Jessica Moore-Lane, creator of the Caring Angels Cancer Foundation, was given her award by Dorsey. Moore-Lane started the foundation in memory of her twin brother, who lost his battle with cancer last year. The organization provides financial assistance to people who are currently battling the disease.
“No one should have to choose between paying their rent or utilities or paying for their medicine, and Jessica has taken this to heart,” Quick remarked.
Quick said the agency plans to make the Housing Authority Heroes program an annual event.