A hero can be a prominent figure, someone people respect or emulate. A hero can be an athlete who has reached the pinnacle in his sport. Po lice officers and firefighters are true heroes. U.S. troops, especially those who have sacrificed their lives, have earned the title.
Not every hero fits into those categories.
Scottsdale residents Hillary Brose, Michael Gannon, Jay McKeon, Rick Mueller, Joe Rios and Audrey Zirbel are heroes.
They are people who haven’t achieved fame, don’t seek glory and are pretty much ordinary people — with one key exception: They give selflessly for their city, friends and neighbors and don’t wonder what’s in it for themselves.
The six have been selected as the newest Frances Young Unsung Community Heroes, and will be honored during a private ceremony Oct. 7 by sponsor General Dynamics.
"This program reminds us annually just how very important it is for us to make contributions to the community," said Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross. "We are all part of the same family and we need to work together."
Gary Holloway of Scottsdale started the community heroes program in 1996.
"Scottsdale has always been so unique in the percentage of people involved in the community," Holloway said. "Those people tend to rise to the top. There are leaders you see all the time. But, what about people who do things to benefit others on a day-to-day basis and get no recognition?
"They are the grass-roots people, in the trenches. They do what they do to make people’s lives better, not to benefit themselves."
Holloway worked with the Phoenix Pride Commission and was chairman of a committee that came up with a Phoenix Parks Department Points of Pride program in 1991. He later established a similar program for residents of Scottsdale’s Paiute neighborhood.
Holloway and a group from the Tribune and Motorola, which was bought by General Dynamics in 2001, formulated the awards.
When it came time to attach a name to the award, Corwin Ellsworth, a former principal at Supai Middle School, recommended Frances Young. But, Holloway said, Young also was on the selection panel.
"We didn’t want to be selfserving," Holloway said. "We said ‘no way.’ As time went on, we recognized that she epitomized what these awards were about. She’s made a lifelong commitment to people. She was the perfect person."
Young said she was overcome at the suggestion the awards be named after her. She said since most committee members didn’t know anything about her, they conversed openly.
"It was like I wasn’t there. They discussed my pros and cons," said the 83-year-old Young. "It was almost funny. I didn’t say anything, for once. You don’t toot your own horn. I think that helped."
Young earned her honor as a community hero. Since her arrival in Scottsdale from Texas in 1962, Young has assisted and championed numerous community organizations and causes. Her contributions include establishing an English as a Second Language program in schools, starting Indian education, Head Start and Title I programs, and starting the Vista del Camino Community Center.
She founded Concerned Citizens for Community Health in 1975 to meet social service needs of low-income families. While serving on the city Human Services Commission, she helped initiate the utility bill donation fund and the Scottsdale Cares Program that gives more than $220,000 annually to nonprofit organizations.
A longtime champion of minorities’ rights, Young has worked to create a safer, healthier, more productive community. The Paiute Neighborhood Center is a legacy to the work that she and commission members urged Scottsdale’s city staff members to undertake during the late 1980s to benefit Spanish speaking immigrants from Mexico.
"If you need help or are underprivileged, you should live in Scottsdale," Young said. "The people will always help you. Every one of the people I met in Scottsdale has been special, regardless of what they do."