Man Of Year Driving Force For Red Cross

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Lew Levenson, Payson's Man of the Year for 2006, can be found doing everything from fund-raising and interviews on the radio to recruiting volunteers and hosting monthly Red Cross meetings.

During 2005's Edge Complex Fire he and his fellow volunteers from the Rim Country Service Unit of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the American Red Cross provided a safe haven for firefighters and evacuees from Tonto Basin at the emergency shelter they opened.

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Lew Levenson's efforts on behalf of the Red Cross in the Rim Country, forest health and road improvements made him an easy choice for the Man of the Year award.

Levenson is the government liaison and trainer for the local chapter of the Red Cross.

"Lew is a terrific leader," said Carol Flowers, who, along with Levenson, reactivated the Rim Country's Red Cross operation.

The group of concerned residents saw a need for an active Red Cross unit, and it was formed six months after the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2000.

"You might say it lit a fire under me," Levenson laughed, then got serious. "When Red Cross volunteers came up from the Valley they had difficulties because there weren't any local connections established. It was like a bunch of foreigners coming in and talking to people in the back woods, and it was inappropriate. So some of us decided we were going to constitute a unit in the Rim Country so we would be able to talk Red Cross language when it is necessary to have anyone come up and help us."

"He is active in Toastmasters and as a result of that he is an excellent speaker and teacher."

Speechcrafters is one of the Red Cross classes Levenson has taught. It is for those people, who may have to speak to the public or the media when there is an evacuation going on.

Without Levenson, several of the core Red Cross members and Melissa Wenzel, communication manager for the Grand Canyon Chapter, concurred: there would not be more than 50 volunteers (up 20 from July of 2005) without his passion, organizational skills and follow-through training.

"Lew has gone to places like Christopher Creek and Young and has met with the fire chiefs in those towns," Flowers said.

Now, if disaster strikes in any of these surrounding areas we are prepared with first responders because of his recruitment and work as a certified trainer.

"He's always there," said Roxey Bowers, coordinator for the Rim Country Unit. "In fact, Lew put in more than 1,000 hours in 2005. That's quite a little dedication to a good organization."

Sleeping on cots while remaining ready for evacuees during the Willow and Edge fires was simply part of being prepared for Bowers and Levenson.

"Lew is my right-hand man. He sets up all the training for the volunteers so they don't have to drive down to Phoenix."

Now that there are more members Levenson can pass on the responsibility for the "call down list" for contacting volunteers during a time of need.

Levenson has always been a proponent of positive community change and a man who can bring people together, according to Patricia Allebrand, his wife of 16 years.

"He knows what to say and the right time to say it, which I admire because it is the opposite of me," she said. "He is also a very kind person. He loves to give.

"Lew is very modest and doesn't blow his own horn," said Allebrand. "I am so pleased for him to win this award."

Levenson is a retired engineering manager for Seagate Technologies in Santa Cruz, Calif. He had an environmental radio show there.

When they lived in Cornville, Ariz., in the Verde Valley, Levenson was involved in trying to get the town incorporated.

The couple moved to Payson because it was a small, beautiful community and the people were nice, said Allebrand.

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