HOMESTEAD (CBS4) – Ninety-two year-old Ruth Campbell says she has devoted her life to kindness and public service. She has now received special recognition for it.
Campbell and 10 other people and an organization received “Kindness Awards” from the City of Homestead on Tuesday in a ceremony at the Homestead-Miami Speedway Champion’s Club. It honored good deeds and acts of kindness just days before the 20th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.
“I was surprised,” Campbell told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
Campbell was honored for years of work sharing the city’s history while working at the historic Old Town Hall Museum.
“I guess they liked the way I greeted people,” she said. “I was so proud to show people all about the city.”
Campbell was on the City Council when Andrew struck her city.
“The first thing is you didn’t know where we were. All the street signs were down,” she said. “We were surprised. One day we had a city. One day we didn’t. One day we had electricity. One day we didn’t.”
“I will never forget the kindness of City Manager Alex Muxo,” she said. “It was an act of kindness on his part to find out where we were, how we were doing.”
Maria Gracia also received a Kindness Award for years of helping people in the community following Andrew.
“It’s something that comes naturally,” she said. “You do what you have to do. Everyone became brothers and sisters and everyone was helping each other. It made us all better human beings and made us realize you can not survive on your own.”
Other 2012 honorees were Betty Alexander, Dougie Hitchcock, Mike Hitt, Crystal Ruiz, Juanita Smith and Rosario Strano.
There were three 2012 Post Hurricane Honorees as well: Retired Lt. Colonel Howard Davidson, Jr., Gregg McNutt and Bob Behar. The 2012 Organization Honoree was the Open Health Door Center.
City Councilwoman Judy Waldman founded the Kindness Awards during Andrew’s 10th anniversary.
“It takes so little to be kind,” said Waldman. “It’s just a simple act of kindness that can change somebody’s day.”
She told D’Oench that she and her husband lost their businesses and their home because of Andrew. And for awhile, she said she didn’t know if her son had survived the storm. And when she was a child growing up in Pikeville, Kentucky, she said her parents lost their home because of a flood.
Waldman said she was deeply moved by how people had responded to those in need in Homestead and South Miami-Dade after the storm.
“That’s when I realized there was a huge debt of gratitude for everything people had done for us from all over the United States,” said Waldman.
The event also honored the resilience of people and was held at the Speedway, officials said, because the Speedway was a striking example of the economic recovery of Homestead, whose population before the storm was 26,000 and which is now nearly 60,000.
Sadie Strano attended the ceremony with her daughter Tina and said she too was deeply moved by the Awards.
Her late husband Rosario, who died in 2009, was honored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an act of kindness following Andrew.
“My Dad gave part of his land to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and allowed them to set up a base camp,” said Rosario’s daughter Tina. She showed D’Oench a photo of her father receiving a special award.
An emotional Sadie Strano said, “I just think about this because my husband is gone. He passed away. He was very kind.”
Former Homestead Police Captain Ed Bowe, who is now with the police reserve after being an officer for 27 years, lost his home during Andrew, told D’Oench, “It was really ground zero. That was the truth. We lost our house but fortunately, we had insurance. We rebuilt our house. We lived in a double-wide trailer.”
“It was mentally trying. Each day and each night,” she said, “you were out, physically and emotionally.”
“It was a very terrifying time,” said Sadie Strano, “but you just made the best of it.”