Pictured are those recognized at the annual CERT Banquet on Monday. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Pictured are those recognized at the annual CERT Banquet on Monday. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

CONVOY – Members of the 2019 Van Wert County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) organization and volunteers met at Gibson’s Barnyard BBQ in Convoy on Tuesday evening to receive awards for meritorious volunteer service this past year. Area businesses and law enforcement who assisted with CERT efforts were also recognized.

Mark Klausing, CERT Chairman and speaker for the event, began by noting that there were no CERT fatalities for the past year, to the applause of those in the room.

Klausing referred back to a tragic fire that took the home of Brian, Amy, and daughter, Renee Whittemire, of near Middle Point just before this past Christmas as an example of how the CERT team interacted with area businesses and volunteers in addressing the needs of family and volunteers on a night when the temperature was hovering near zero.

“I wanted to use this tonight because it touches everybody in this room,” said Klausing. “This is all about how you helped these people, how the caseworkers talked to these people, how much it helps them in this situation to get refocused and assures them how it is going to be okay.”

Klausing said he was totally surprised how many firemen and volunteers responded at 3 a.m. on one of the coldest nights of the winter and helped.

Klausing was especially amazed that when CERT members were being called out that Amy Schroeder had a “special feeling of need” that she needed to respond immediately and go directly to the scene.

“She felt like something was wrong, that she needed to immediately go straight to the scene,” said Klausing. “When she arrived, there they were standing outside, waiting for someone to help them. Amy is one of the most fantastic people that I’ve ever met.”

Klausing praised the likes of Walmart, Pak-A-Sak, Van Wert County Foundation, Venedocia and Convoy Lions Clubs and the Salvation Army – the primary group that donated to the family and brought refreshments to the workers.

Klausing praised Walmart for giving a $300 gift card to the victim families to purchase clothes and things that they need immediately.

Lighthouse Church was also recognized for donations to help CERT and training for CERT workers.

In addition, EMA director Rick McCoy passed out team awards and gave special recognition to Klausing for his leadership of CERT.

Klausing said that in two years, CERT membership has grown to 26 and is now recognized as the number one CERT organization in Ohio.

Each year, CERT has a special project to work on, said Klausing. This year’s project is a “home building” to store tools and accessories and from which to operate, Klausing said.

“We would like to thank the city and law enforcement for giving us the parking lot behind the jail as a place to construct,” said Klausing.

“Contact Rick McCoy if you can help us,” said Klausing. “The word is out around the state of Ohio now that other CERT teams need to see Van Wert’s CERT team.”