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Tom Brooks
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2015 Richardson Real Heroes. From Left: Jeff Stuart, NETWORK of Community Ministries; Ida Dwight, First United Methodist Church; Norma Murphy & Jim Murphy, Richardson Methodist Medical Center; Joseph "Renato" Sperandeo, Richardson Adult Literacy Center.

The Richardson Real Heroes organization recently honored five residents whose unselfish and unheralded volunteerism contributes to making the city a better place to live.

The honorees and the organizations for which they volunteer:

  • Ida Dwight, First United Methodist Church of Richardson
  • Jim and Norma Murphy, Methodist Richardson Medical Center
  • Jeff Stuart, NETWORK of Community Ministries
  • Joseph "Renato" Sperandeo, Richardson Adult Literacy Center

 

The five were celebrated April 9 at the sixth annual Richardson Real Heroes awards ceremony at the Richardson Civic Center. Former Richardson City Manager Bill Keffler gave a keynote speech to the gathering of nearly 200 people, citing the enormous benefits of volunteerism to the community. Keffler, who now serves as chief operation officer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, did research into the service of each of the honorees and told the crowd he was humbled by their service.

Richardson Real Heroes was founded by The Richardson Coalition with the motto of “Honoring Silent Generosity.” Nominees are sought from the public and non-profit organizations operating in Richardson. Then the Real Heroes board of directors chooses the honorees from among that list. Real Heroes is funded by The Richardson Coalition, a political action committee. Real Heroes operates with the premise that volunteers operating in leadership positions usually receive public recognition, but those operating in the background are doing tremendous work without accolades.

The 2015 honorees:

Ida Dwight: Ida founded First Center at First United Methodist Church in Richardson more than 35 years ago. The organization provides fellowship, programming and support for women from throughout the area. She also has served on the board of ARK House, which provides inexpensive housing for people whose loved ones are in a local hospital for extended periods. “Ida does not seek honors for her work,” said Dee Weaver, who nominated Dwight for the honor. “In fact, she considers what she does a responsibility and a privilege. Ida rolls her sleeves up and puts her head down to get things done. Her love for volunteerism and community service is well grounded in her Richardson church community. Her reach, however, is far greater.” She also is known for delicious, home-cooked meals that go to fellow church members, neighbors, and men and women staying at Hillcrest House in Dallas, a facility for people with HIV/AIDS. Through support of the Mission Work Area at the church, funds have been provided for water wells in Haiti, a primary school in South Africa, and a hospital. Local agencies that benefit from this ministry's funding include Habitat for Humanity, Nueva Vida Fellowship, and Wesley Rankin Community Center, according to Weaver.

Jim and Norma Murphy: Jim and Norma Murphy have volunteered for more than 13 years and support multiple departments at Methodist Richardson Medical Center. Jim, a former banker, volunteers for a weekly shift, but also took charge of the hospital's "chart room" program, according to Joni Reed, volunteer coordinator at the hospital. Jim heads a team of three volunteers who assemble the patient charts within the facility. “Jim saw how busy nurses, techs and clinical staff were, so he stepped up and told them that he would take over,” Reed said. “Last year, Jim's team assembled about 2,500 charts that allowed our nurses more time to do what they do best, which is save lives.” Norma, a former nurse, volunteers twice a week and also participates in the prayer shawl ministry, hand-knitting hundreds of shawls for critically ill patients. As Norma knits each shawl, she prays while she works, lifting patients in prayer. In most cases, she has never met the patient. The prayer shawl ministry is one of the hospital’s most popular patient projects, Reed said, and the hospital frequently receives thank you notes from recipients. “Hospitals are not easy places in which to work, volunteer or even to encounter,” said Reed. “Our patients are tired, stressed, scared, sick, and overwhelmed. When someone like Jim or Norma walks into the room, whether it is with a simple hello or a beautiful prayer shawl, they make the worries disappear, even just for a minute. And that is priceless."

 

Joseph 'Renato' Sperandeo: Renato has devoted more than 1,000 hours at the Richardson Adult Literacy Center (RALC) helping more than 200 adults become comfortable in English.  He also helps RALC improve instruction, mentors new volunteers, assists with student registration and helps with summer conversation classes. In addition to his exemplary volunteer English teaching service, Renato is active with his religious community, Richardson Baha'I, as well as a barbershop chorus that performs in nursing homes 20 times a year. The chorus involves weekly practices, usually after he has taught a two-hour English class through RALC. Renato was born in Italy and came to the United States at age 19, speaking no English. He worked in a kitchen by day and went to high school at night. Renato earned his high school diploma through the GED program and started college. Following an all-too-common theme, he could not continue college because of work and the financial needs of his family. He was drafted into the Army, where he served his new country for two years. In the Army, he improved his English proficiency and gained enough confidence to apply for an entry-level position with Citibank. He worked his way up to Vice President of Operations during his 14 years with the company. Renato and his family moved to Richardson in 1984. He and his brother owned and operated three Italian restaurants and managed shopping centers until he retired in 2011. 

Jeff Stuart: Jeff Stuart started his volunteer “career” at NETWORK of Community Ministries in 2002 in the food pantry. He has made himself an indispensable cog in NETWORK’s finance department. Jeff has utilized his background in systems analysis as a part of the team that receives, records and deposits donations. He also is responsible for managing the donor database, preparing management reports and providing technical support to staff. In 2014, Jeff joined the Technology Requirements Team, a group of staff members/volunteers planning and executing a five-year plan for technology updates. Network can document 432 hours of labor provided by Jeff in 2014. “Without Jeff we could not process donations,” said Elizabeth Scheihing, NETWORK’S volunteer coordinator. “He continually goes above and beyond, supporting NETWORK however he can. While his services are essential to NETWORK, most people do not see his hard work and dedication. In most cases the work he does for NETWORK would only be trusted to a paid staff member. His tireless efforts, dependability and trustworthiness have made him an exception to the rule.” He is married to Anne. They have two children, Michael and Kimberly, each of whom are married with two children and live locally.  He is the Treasurer of the local Knights of Columbus chapter and has served as a marriage mentor with his wife through All Saints Catholic Church.

More facts about the Richardson Real Heroes Program and award recipients can be found at www.richardsonrealheroes.com.

For more information on this story, contact Tom Brooks, publicity chair of Richardson Real Heroes, at tom@tommywrites.com or phone 214-415-2551.

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