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Youngstown man honored as Old Fort Niagara’s volunteer of the year

YOUNGSTOWN – Thomas O’Brien of Youngstown has been named Old Fort Niagara’s “Volunteer of the Year” for 2015.

O’Brien was recently honored at the fort’s Volunteer Recognition Breakfast for having contributed 272 hours to his volunteer post last year. His name has been added to a plaque that recognizes each Volunteer of the Year, which is displayed in the fort’s visitor center.

“Each year, Old Fort Niagara honors a volunteer whose dedication and contributions are exceptional,” said Robert L. Emerson, the fort’s executive director.

“That person is Tom O’Brien for 2015. We are a very fortunate to have Tom as such an active and involved part of our volunteer team and we thank him for his service to the fort.”

O’Brien has volunteered at the fort since 2012, contributing his time and talents in many areas, including; tour guide, parking, touring with school groups, guide of the day, lighthouse, hospitality, Castle by Candlelight, Haunted Fortress, food sales, and history interpreter. He is retired from the U.S. Army, where he worked in active duty and the reserves for 25 years. He also volunteers at Heart, Love and Soul Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen in Niagara Falls.

“I volunteer at Old Fort Niagara because there is a lot of history in this area and I like helping to share it with people from all over the world,” O’Brien said. “I enjoy meeting people and seeing their reactions when they discover just how much history is here.”

Volunteers and re-enactors at Old Fort Niagara contributed 41,398 volunteer hours in 2015, which the fort values at over $500,000. More than 100 of them attended the March 5 breakfast held in their honor and received certificates of recognition. Congressman Chris Collins, R-Hamburg, and State Senator Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, addressed the honorees, praising their volunteer services and emphasizing the importance of preserving history.