NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - No matter how cold the nights got, David Charles Leon, John S. El-Maraghy, Marissa Lavelle Tacinelli and Chadd Heyman left the comfort of their warm homes to help others who didn't have one.
They were honored at Thursday's Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting for their volunteer work with the city's Code Blue program.
The Code Blue program provides a warm and dry place for residents without adequate shelter when the temperature dips overnight and/or there is an accumulation of at least six inches of snow.
"I can't tell you how valuable these Code Blue centers are and how important the service that these volunteers provide," Freeholder Director Ronald Rios said before he presented them each with a copy of a proclamation honoring their work. "I can't tell you how appreciative we are as a county because you certainly are making a positive difference and, in some cases, saving people's lives. Literally, saving people's lives."
Leon, El-Maraghy, Tacinelli and Heyman are just a few of the volunteers that helped City staff members run the Code Blue program during overnight hours. According to the City's website, volunteer duties include greeting guests as they arrive at shelter sites and assisting supervisory staff with on-site tasks. There are two volunteer shifts: 7 p.m.-1 a.m. and 1 a.m.-7 a.m.
Keith Jones, a community organizer who works in the Mayor's Office, spoke about each of the four volunteers who were honored.
He said El-Maraghy "has the passion to serve people in need like no other" and praised him for helping to enlist the help of several Rutgers students this past winter.
Jones said Tacinelli "would not miss a Code Blue" and started to "drag out her boyfriend," Heyman.
Jones said he always assigned Leon to help during the late shift and " and he has never missed a Code Blue in two years."
The volunteers end up becoming "mentors, counselors" to the people they help.
"It's one of these things that is heartbreaking because you can go home to your bed at the end of the night and if we don't call a Code Blue (there are) scores of individuals that don't have a way (to stay warm)," Jones said.
Jones also noted that none of the four volunteers lives in New Brunswick.