In the eye of the storm, CERT volunteers help their neighbors

New CERT members pose for a photo at the Monroe Senior Center. Seated in the front row, from left, are Robert and Susan Mitola, standing next to them is Heather LeMoult. Back row from left is Rick Smith, Gary Holforty and John Grabowski.

MONROE, CT — When blizzards bury roads, hurricanes knock out power and a pandemic threatens the public’s health, the volunteers of Monroe’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) pitch in and help their community and its first responders, from running warming centers to assisting at vaccination clinics.

On Thursday night, CERT recognized two longtime volunteers and welcomed six new members during its meeting at the Monroe Senior Center.

“Six new members, for post-pandemic, is really great,” said David York, Monroe’s CERT coordinator and deputy Emergency Management director. “One Year we had nobody and another year we had two.”

York attributes the fresh infusion of new volunteers to the team hosting classes online over Zoom, when over 100 people participated.

Joyce Burr, secretary of CERT, said the organization has over 200 members in all, though 26 are the most active.

Some people take the training to learn how to help their families in an emergency, others do it to help their neighbors, then there are those who do so to help their community, according to Burr.

Even though all who take the training don’t go on to become active members of CERT, she said the more people who know what to do in an emergency, the better.

CERT volunteers, from left, James and Jennifer Morrison, received a proclamation from First Selectman Ken Kellogg, which was read by CERT Coordinator David York, right, at the team’s meeting at the Monroe Senior Center Thursday.

At Thursday’s meeting, York read a proclamation from First Selectman Ken Kellogg honoring husband and wife, James and Jennifer Morrison, who served on CERT for over 10 years. The couple has to leave the group, because they are moving out of state.

In his proclamation, Kellogg praised Jennifer for becoming a state-certified CERT instructor and going on to teach nine classes, and James for his contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic, assisting at testing and vaccination clinics and participating in the region’s Citizen Corps meetings.

Jennifer and York are founding members of Monroe’s CERT team. She took the spring CERT class in 2012 and James took the fall class. York said the town’s first team was trained by David Heidelberg of Westport.

On Thursday, CERT welcomed new members Gary Holforty, Heather LeMoult, John Grabowski, Rick Smith, and Robert and Susan Mitola.

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