Skip To Content

2017 ESL Jefferson Award Winners

Five Local Heroes Named 2017 ESL Jefferson Award Winners!

April 2017

Congratulations to these five local volunteers who were recently recognized by ESL Federal Credit Union and News 10 NBC WHEC with the 2017 ESL Jefferson Awards.

This year’s honorees are:

Salvatore Gerbino

Sal Gerbino is a retired Sergeant with the Gates Police. He continues to serve his community in the law enforcement field even after retirement. Beginning in 1980, Sal coordinated law enforcement torch runs in Rochester raising more than $2,000,000. Sal was instrumental in coordinating the first-ever Polar Plunge that raised thousands of dollars to help offset the cost that the special olympians had to bear to attend the Special Olympic Games. This fund-raising event has become a tradition in the Monroe County area for the past 19 years and is attended by thousands of participants during the month of February. The event is held at Durand Eastman Park and has become an annual event for the community.

Dan Lill

In 2001, Bill D’Anza was serving lunch at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality in the city when he was asked if he could do some minor bike repair for a guest. Bill willingly responded, and his services soon drew a crowd to St. Joe’s parking lot. Bill promised to return the next week, and continued, eventually forming R Community Bikes (RCB) in 2005 with Dan Lill. RCB began receiving invitations to many community events and visibility increased, as did volunteers and donations of parts and bikes. RCB has grown from that initial bike repair to distributing more than 17,121 bikes and repairing 20,000 free-of-charge to the Rochester Community. Each donated bike is inspected for safety and is given away with a helmet and lock. Bikes are frequently the most affordable means of transportation to jobs, schools, churches, etc. at local social service agencies. All members of this organization are on a mission to better serve the Rochester community.

Mary Kate Brushafer

When she was 10 years old, Mary Kate Brushafer experienced an unimaginable tragedy at Christmas time; the death of a parent. The following year, Mary Kate wanted to ensure families with children who have suffered a traumatic loss of a parent or child are given the opportunity to enjoy the Holiday season as best as possible. To raise the necessary funds, she found jobs, such as raking leaves, babysitting, and cleaning cars. The funds were used to purchase gifts for these families and were left anonymously to be opened Christmas morning. In 2011, Mary Kate’s vision transformed into the Santa Hat Society, and in it 2014 became a non-profit. She is now 16 and CEO of the organization. Families are identified and helped through an anonymous third-party advocate called "Elves." These advocates gather the children’s wish lists and deliver the wrapped gifts prior to Christmas morning. The Santa Hat Society continues to grow, providing gifts to more families each year.

Richard Keane

Upon retiring, Rick knew he wanted to volunteer his time and give back to his community. His first wife had passed away from cancer, and he knew first-hand how trying chemotherapy treatments could be. He wanted to help other families in their time of need. Rick first heard of Better Day Buddies (BDB) from his friends, Earl and Esther Krakower. Earl was also a BDB volunteer before he passed away in 2010. Rick explains, “A month after his death, I told Esther that I'd like to take Earl’s volunteer time at BDB. I thought of this as a gift to Earl and his memory. As it turned out, I had it backwards. It wasn’t my gift to Earl. It was his gift to me. Better Day Buddies is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I get to spend my time with my heroes – the kids and their parents and the hospital staff who confront diseases, day after day. This environment may sound intimidating. I’ve had people say that it would be too hard to spend time around sick kids. I thought that once, as well. When people ask, ‘How can you do that?’ I tell them that once I tried it, the question became, ‘How could I NOT do that?” There is no better way to make a difference in our community.”

Yana Khashper

Yana is co-founder and director of ROCovery Fitness, a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life for those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Not only has she worked salary-free for the past two years, she has touched (and saved) the lives of countless individuals and their family members. As Rochester, NY fights the heroin epidemic, she is the light that shows that recovery is possible. ROCovery Fitness is a peer-driven, peer-led organization. Yana has worked tirelessly with treatment centers, politicians, community organizations, families, and those fighting the disease of addiction. ROCovery has found a home and is in the process of renovating an old firehouse located on Dewey Ave that will be New York State’s first sober, active community center. The facility will continue to support healing and recovery by providing a sober place for those seeking safety and fun. She has connected both young and old to the idea that sobriety can be worthwhile and has shown just how much sober life has to offer.

About the ESL Jefferson Awards

The ESL Jefferson Awards are part of the national Jefferson Award Foundation which strives to build a culture of service in communities across the country. Founded in 1972 by well-known public servants including former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Jefferson Awards are the country’s longest standing and most prestigious honor of its kind.

One winner of the local ESL Jefferson Awards is selected each year to attend the Jefferson Awards National Ceremony in Washington, D.C.