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Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama awarded the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, to 13 Americans.
Camilla Bloomquist of Penn Yan, New York, has spent more than 30 years giving out free food for the needy, with 22,000 requests for aid last year alone.
“For decades, she has personified the phrase ‘above and beyond,’” Obama said at a White House ceremony, linking good deeds of the 13 Americans to the story of the Good Samaritan.
“They come from different backgrounds” and have “devoted themselves to different causes,” Obama said. “They are united by the choice that they’ve made. They could have made an excuse to do nothing; instead they chose to help.”
In some cases, he said, “the choice to help was especially hard, because it came in the wake of tragedy.”
The medal was established in 1969 to recognize American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens. Awards are made to people whose work has had a lasting effect on others, their community, the nation or the world.
Obama asked the public in May to nominate people who performed such deeds outside of their regular jobs, seeking the extraordinary or those who took an unusual risk to protect others, according to the White House. He looked for people who made a commitment to help others who fought hunger, homelessness, school dropouts or lack of access to health care.
More than 6,000 nominations were submitted online, according to the White House.
The 13 recipients:
-- Steve and Liz Alderman of Armonk, New York, who founded the Peter C. Alderman Foundation to help treat and heal the emotional wounds of victims of terrorism and mass violence, after their son, Peter Alderman, was killed in the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The foundation trains health care professionals and establishes clinics in post-conflict countries such as Cambodia, Uganda, Rwanda and Haiti. Peter Alderman worked for Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.
-- Clarence Lee Alexander of Fort Yukon, Alaska, known as the “grandfather of tribal government” for work cleaning up the Yukon River, resulting in closure of numerous open-burning dumps and the removal or recycling of millions pounds of waste.
-- Bloomquist, who founded Food for the Needy and Christmas for the Needy.
-- Judith Broder of Studio City, California, founded the Soldiers Project, which works to meet the mental health needs of service members, their families and returning veterans. More than 600 therapists have provided more than 7,400 hours of free time, offering psychological services to veterans.
-- Vijaya Emani of Strongsville, Ohio, for becoming a role model for victims of domestic abuse after overcoming it in her own life, and by breaking a taboo in the Indian American community. Emani, who was killed in a vehicle accident, was awarded the medal posthumously.
-- John Keaveney of Los Angeles, a Vietnam combat veteran, who founded the New Directions home for homeless and disabled veterans with addiction and mental health problems.
-- Roger Kemp of Leawood, Kansas, created The Ali Kemp Defense Education Foundation, which has trained more than 46,000 women in self defense, after his daughter, Ali, 19, was killed in the summer of 2002.
-- Janice Langbehn of Lacey, Washington, after a lawsuit, began a successful campaign to revise hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian couples, which went into effect this past January for any hospitals receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funds. She acted after her partner, Lisa Pond, fell ill from a brain aneurysm and died in the hospital alone, because Langbehn was refused access. Obama personally apologized to her for the way she and her family were treated.
-- Ida Martin of Bluffton, South Carolina, created Bluffton Self Help to aid working families, disabled residents and senior citizens suffering a financial crisis. In 2010, her program provided 62,000 items of food to 11,600 people and provided clothing to almost 9,000 people.
-- Margaret Martin of Los Angeles founded the Harmony Project in 2001, which provides instruments and tuition-free music lessons to thousands of children in Los Angeles who would otherwise have no access to classical music. She acted after observing Los Angeles gang members stop at a Hollywood market to listen to a child playing Brahms on a small violin.
-- Michelle McIntyre-Brewer of Jefferson, Maryland, a military spouse and mother, founded Soldier’s List in 2003 to support high risk service members and their families. The organization has sent tens of thousands of care packages around the world providing critical medical relief.
-- Roberto Perez of Miami is president of Alfalit, a nonprofit organization fighting illiteracy from Africa to South America. Because of the efforts of Perez, an ordained Methodist pastor who once counseled prison inmates and recovering alcoholics, about 7 million people have learned to read in 22 countries in the Americas, Africa and Europe.
--Editors: Bob Drummond, Joe Sobczyk
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