Lori Cutshall, president of AFSCME Local 2523 (Pennsylvania District Council 90), embodies what the Jefferson Awards Foundation calls an “unsung hero” – a volunteer or paid professional who goes “well beyond their expected duties” to help out in their local community.
Cutshall, also treasurer of DC 90, is a resident of Dover Township (York County) and an employee at the state Department of Environmental Protection. She attended the Jefferson Awards National Ceremony, on June 18, as one of 60 national finalists for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award Benefitting Local Communities. While she was not among the five winners of that award, Cutshall nonetheless is an inspiration, showing what it means to volunteer to help others when that help is really needed.
Last October, Cutshall was one of eight mid-state Pennsylvania residents to receive the 2015 Susquehanna Valley Jefferson Award, a local honor that leads to the national award competition. Alan Vandersloot, AFL-CIO community services liaison at United Way of York County, who nominated Cutshall for the local award, told The York Dispatch last year that judges were especially impressed by her efforts helping to establish Oasis of Hope, a Bradford County shelter for women and girls escaping sex trafficking.
Cutshall decided to act after learning – during a presentation by a federal prosecutor – that Central Pennsylvania had one of the nation’s highest rates of trafficking of minors. “We now have the first house for trafficked minor children in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Cutshall said during the local awards ceremony, presented by United Way, Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union and WGAL, which produced a video about the safe house.
Cutshall also impressed Jefferson Awards judges with her efforts to help displaced New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina. She managed a shelter for 10,000 displaced people in Baton Rouge. “She was also in New Orleans’ 9th Ward during that time to assist those in need, and saw a lot of destruction such as boats and cars in trees, and a house on its side wedged between two other houses,” reported AFSCME Council 13’s Connection newsletter.
In addition to her efforts with Oasis of Hope – Cutshall helped victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2013. Her volunteerism doesn’t stop at her state’s borders.
“Globally, Cutshall travels to India, Guatemala, Argentina and Brazil for medical missions and to teach English as a second language,” Connection reported. “Nationally, she is very involved with the American Red Cross, and served food and water to first responders in New York City after the September 11th attacks.”
“It is very difficult for me to tell the difference between global, national and local outreach when it comes to community service,” Cutshall said in the Connection story. “It’s just people helping people. We’re on this boat together.”