“Angels do not have wings, and sometimes they are dressed in dark blue uniforms.” These words were written recently by a local couple expressing gratitude for the help they received from our fire department through a program that keeps homebound individuals (mostly older adults) safe.
I’ve been writing in this space for nearly a year and, without question, the columns that generated the most feedback are the ones that shared good deeds happening in our community. The best part is that most of the ideas come from AdVantage readers: you, your neighbors and friends.
That is how I heard about Project HERO. Deputy Fire Chief Chris Nye explained that the outreach has been going on in his department since 2020. It’s the result of a personal initiative by retired Chief Jeff Kowalski, Chief Michael Ramm, Chief Barry Cousino of the Springfield Township Fire Service, and Lt. Shawn Wittkop, a Sylvania Township paramedic, who started the program along with colleague Jodi Livecchi from Springfield Fire.
HERO stands for Health Education, Resources and Outreach. Referrals are generally made by EMS and Fire crews after responding to 911 calls. They may have been on multiple calls to the same address or noticed when a patient has further needs beyond the immediate emergency. Their recommendations result in a home visit by a Project HERO team.
The firefighter/paramedics suggest ways to reduce repeated calls by making some changes, sometimes relatively minor, in the home. This can be as simple as installing grab bars to add to a resident’s stability or taking up an area rug that keeps catching on the legs of a walker. Assessments and assistance are provided at no cost. So far, more than 120 households have benefited from the program.
“Rather than reacting to an alarm in an emergency situation, we are proactively going out to try and prevent that circumstance,” Wittkop said. “The goal is to provide assistance so that everyone who wishes to live in their own home can do so safely.”
Once in a while, good deeds extend over a lifetime and eventually create a reputation. No one has to tell you about the person because so many people already know. Sylvania lost one of the best examples of that tradition of service with the recent passing of Robert Armstrong.
Known to his friends as “Army,” he was a hard-working volunteer with the best interests of the Sylvania community in mind, Mayor Craig Stough recalled.
Most notably, Armstrong served as board president alongside his wife of 36 years, Joy, in the formation of the Sylvania Historical Village (now called Heritage Sylvania) beginning in the early 1990s. Following his retirement after 29 years of service to the Sylvania Police Department as a dispatcher, he worked nearly full-time doing construction, improvements and repairs to the buildings and grounds there, the mayor noted. In 2018, retired city council member Sandy Husman was instrumental in re-naming the barn at the Historical Village as the “Armstrong Barn” in recognition of the couple’s role in preserving Sylvania’s heritage. “There were perhaps 20 people that worked very hard at the Village in the beginning, but Army and Joy put it all together,” Husman said. “If it wasn’t for their effort and the many volunteers that they recruited along the way, the Village wouldn’t be our little gem in downtown Sylvania today.”
Armstrong also supported Joy in her work with the Sylvania Sister City Commission, and he was a major force in the Sylvania Moose Lodge 1579 as a founding member, four-time governor and district president of the Ohio State Moose Association.
Muter echoed a refrain that I heard often from people who remember Armstrong and it’s a pretty good legacy. “Army was a great guy,” he said. “He liked joking around. But at the end of the day, if you needed help with anything, he was always right there for you.”