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North Collier Fire Rescue Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Member Ray Wodynski was recently recognized by the Florida CERT Association as CERT Member of the Year for the State of Florida.  Here is the nomination letter submitted that details all of Ray’s dedication to CERT. Ray was honored at the September, 2019 Florida CERT Association Annual Conference held at the Naples Beach & Golf Club Hotel. North Collier Fire Rescue is so very proud of Ray!!

There truly are not adequate words to describe Ray.  Ray went through our CERT program in 2017 and has been a steadfast CERTaholic since then. Ray served as an EMT in Lee County years ago and came to us via the Bay CERT Team in Texas.

As soon as Ray graduated from our program he was involved.  Shortly after he graduated Hurricane Irma made landfall in Collier County and Ray was involved in many aspects of the recovery efforts for our Team even though he had to tend to his own needs.

It was in January of 2018 when Ray really entrenched himself in almost every aspect of our program. As the Department’s Program Manager I had recently taken on additional roles which impacted my time originally designated for the CERT program. Ray was always right there to help in any way he could, often without asking.  When we would schedule training for existing CERT members or a new class of CERT participants Ray was there before the class started assisting with set-up and room prep, he would stay for the class or training and remain until everything was cleaned up and put away. 

During the 2018 CERT National Conference Ray attended the Train the Trainer Program so he could further his involvement in our program with the ability to teach the course to new participants.  Ray has been a part of the last 6 Basic CERT Training’s we have offered as either a volunteer helping to facilitate the day, a victim for disaster scenarios, a group leader and of course, as a Trainer.  His efforts, his time and his talent have been immeasurable for the growth and success of the North Collier Fire CERT Team in the past two years.  I literally would not have been able to put on the classes and the trainings without him.

Ray loves his CERT Team and is always striving to do whatever possible to shed CERT in the most positive light.  As we were heading into Wildfire and Hurricane season knowing now was as important as ever to continue our efforts to recruit more members; Ray went out and purchased a CERT Tent and tablecloth.  His generosity knows no boundaries.  The CERT tablecloth & tent have allowed us the ability to portray a professional image, protect our CERT members and firefighters when attending outdoor events and provided us with an excellent marketing tool when we are out in the community.  We were able to participate in more outdoor events and our firefighters use the CERT tents at events for their own protection and to market our CERT Team to others. The tent and table cloth have been utilized thoroughly in the past year and would not have been possible without his generosity.

I honestly believe the above listed contributions are enough to choose Ray for the CERT member of the Year but please allow me to give you even more.  On October 10, 2018 the world for North Florida changed as Hurricane Michael made landfall in Bay County Florida. That evening North Collier Fire CERT Team was asked for volunteers to immediately deploy to the area.  Ray, without hesitation, was North Collier’s first volunteer. Ray then lead a team from North Collier along with members from the Charlotte County and Cape Coral CERT Teams.  Ray and his team were on the ground within 24 hours of Michael’s landfall, they were assigned to be at ground zero.  Ray was faced with circumstances that no briefing could have possibly prepared him for.  He and his team had been assigned a shelter that was in the midst of the chaos Michael had left behind.  Rays orders were to assist the shelter director with operations but upon arrival Ray and his team were met with a shelter that been abandoned by the director and group of people who were tired, sacred and confused.  Ray, with the calmness of a seasoned professional guided his team and the residents of the shelter to calm reassurance and promised everyone that they would get the shelter operational.  Under Ray’s leadership they were able to clean up the shelter, garner much needed supplies, develop a system of shifts for the volunteers, separate and inventory supplies and did everything they could to make a less-then-tolerable situation, tolerable for the residents who had lost everything.  Ray and his team spent 10 days in these conditions to help their fellow citizens, it was exhausting, exhilarating, and sometimes smelly experience they all say they would do again tomorrow.  When the time had come for Ray and his team to say goodbye there were tears from everyone involved.  It was because of Ray and his quiet way of leading, the situation turned out the way it did.  The people in that shelter were treated with dignity and respect because that is what Ray portrayed to his team.  I have no doubt had anyone else been placed in that Leadership position they would have not been able to rise to the occasion as Ray did.

In closing, I submit Ray Wodynski for the Florida CERT member of the Year.  Ray has proven to be an invaluable asset to the North Collier Fire CERT Team; he is a compassionate Leader and the type of CERT Ambassadors we all wish for on our Teams. I am indebted to Ray for his calm dedication and he is a constant reminder of the essence of CERT, “To do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people”.  Ray Wodynski has reached far beyond the boundaries of North Collier CERT and I am proud to submit him for CERT member of the Year.