Heroes with Heart celebrates Westbrook employees

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WESTBROOK – Three Westbrook employees were set to be honored this week by Maine Behavioral Healthcare for the roles they play in responding to individuals facing traumatic events.

On Thursday, April 5, Maine Behavioral Healthcare, a non-profit mental health service organization, was set to honor Westbrook High School Principal Kelli Deveaux as its 2018 Heart of Gold award recipient at the 13th annual Heroes with Heart celebration at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. The annual event aims to honor the roles members in the community play in times of trauma.

Valerie Compagna, Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s marketing and communication manager said the award is given annually to someone who has a “caring and nurturing personality… and understands how people around them need emotional support.”

“In the fall of last year, within just a matter of weeks, the school had a student die in a car accident and another who committed suicide. As you can imagine there was a lot of grieving at those incredible tragedies and she was a dynamo who pulled all the resources together to support students, teachers and everybody involved,” Compagna said.

In a release about the award, Deveaux said she couldn’t have done what she did without the support of her fellow staff members.

“My staff is an incredibly resilient and dedicated group of professionals, who have repeatedly risen to the challenge of loss, well before I got to Westbrook,” Deveaux said. “They deserve the credit for their heartfelt support of our students during repeated deaths this school year setting aside their own grief.”

Westbrook Public Safety Dispatcher Janelle Hall earned a Heroes with Heart award for her dedication to public safety in the city.

In his nomination, Westbrook Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte wrote, “Janelle has always shown compassion for the people who call the Communications Center and makes it a habit of going above and beyond to serve the citizens and assist the other members of the agency.  She embodies what it means to be a public servant. She is the first to volunteer for a public outreach or educational event and does whatever she can to help others succeed.” 

Turcotte said Hall is part of the department’s peer support team, which provides service to department members who respond to “traumatic or difficult calls for service,” and through the 9-1-1 For Kids Campaign helps children understand 9-1-1, the roles of dispatchers and when children should and shouldn’t make a 9-1-1 call.

“Janelle has been instrumental in asking our incident command staff if Trauma Intervention Program personnel are needed.  Often times, these scenes are chaotic and our personnel forgets about TIP services and she is there to provide that gentle nudge,” he said.

Westbrook Police Detective Sgt. Timothy Gardner was also a Hero with a Heart recipient for the role he played in the student suicide at the high school.

“Sergeant Gardner, along with investigating the incident, spent much time communicating with the family to help them understand and get through this traumatic event,” Westbrook Police Captain Steven Goldberg wrote in his nomination. “Sergeant Gardner remained in communication with the family long after the incident to help answer their questions and went above and beyond to try to bring closure to the family. There were also some of the victim’s classmates who were struggling with the death, and Sergeant Gardner worked to ensure they had the proper supports set up.”

Gardner, also a member of the peer support team, oversees Westbrook police’s criminal investigation division. He has also worked in the department as a patrol sergeant, drug agent, detective and patrol officer.

 The Heroes with Heart celebration also serves as a fundraiser for the Trauma Intervention Program of Greater Portland. TIP is a group of specially-trained volunteers who provide support for individuals during the time of a traumatic event. Volunteers are available at any time and provide services free of charge. The Greater Portland chapter of TIP was established in 2004 through the support of the national organization and the Junior League of Portland, Maine.

Leslie Skillin said the Heroes with Heart event raises approximately 20 percent of the funding necessary to operate TIP. The money raised is used for training, the communication dispatch system and to fill each of the volunteer’s toolkits. The toolkits, Skillin said, include anything, and everything, that an individual may need during a traumatic event, including a stuffed animal, blanket, change of clothes, coloring book, flashlight, as well as information from area organizations such as the Center for Grieving Children. Each bag, Skillin said costs $100 to set up and $30 to keep filled.

“We keep adding to the list of things to include when we figure out something else we need,” Skillin said.

For more information about TIP of Greater Portland or to become a volunteer, call Skillin at 661-6478 or email skilll@mainebehavioralhealthcare.org. 

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com.

Kelli Deveaux

Janelle Hall

Timothy Gardner

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