Hodges University

International College Graduate Student Receives Letter of Commendation

State of Florida Operational Chief Disaster Recovery Center Coordinator Matthew R. Lopez recently sent International College Master of Public Administration (MPA) major James Calamari a letter of commendation for his leadership in aiding residents of Pine Island after Hurricane Charley’s landfall.

Calamari, a Naples resident, is a Disaster Recovery Center Manager for the Florida Department of Emergency Management. After Hurricane Charley passed through the southwestern region of Florida, Calamari was dispatched to Pine Island to start up a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). He arrived on August 18, worked nearly 14-hour days to have resources in place by August 23, and had the Recovery Center operational for public assistance on August 24, at 8 a.m.

The Disaster Recovery Center is housed within the Fishers of Men Lutheran Church social hall, located on Pine Island.

“James Calamari is an exceptional citizen who upholds the very specific morals and values that the United States was built on. The Florida Department of Emergency Management called upon James because of his vast knowledge in the Emergency Management sector,” Lopez said in the letter. “James was summoned and thoughtlessly and willingly left his normal life to help others in need. I am very fortunate to have such a valuable asset as a part of my staff. James is truly a role model to his fellow employees and is revered by citizens of Pine Island with tremendous accolades and heartfelt gratefulness.”

Calamari transformed the church’s empty social hall into a bustling Recovery Center that included computers, phones, desks, chairs, staff, and agency representatives from the IRS, FEMA, Red Cross, Department of Aging, USDA, Department of Agriculture, Department of Social Security, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others.

The Center housed displaced residents, served as a hospital, and provided small business advice, child care services, Red Cross aid, FEMA assistance, and other services. People who arrived at the Recovery Center also were given food, water, and ice.

Lopez also commended Calamari for planning and establishing the first Mobile Migrant/Diversity Disaster Recovery Center, which specifically targeted the unmet needs of the migrant population in the Bokeelia, September Island, and Pink Citrus areas. The mobile diversity unit concept is now a standard procedure for the Disaster Field Office. Other states, such as Texas and Georgia, are examining the model.

“I wanted to get these residents the help they desperately needed. There was destruction everywhere. It appeared worse than a third-world country. These are people entitled to services and would not have received the help because they were scared and because of cultural barriers,” Calamari said. “I don’t look for recognition in this job, so I didn’t expect the letter. It truly meant a lot to me that others value my services.”

International College Business Professor Katherine Dew expressed enthusiasm for her former student’s accolade.

“I have tremendous respect for James. I’m very proud of the fact that he was able to help people and make their world a little better. So often, we don’t think of students in those terms, but they are civic-minded,” said Dew, who had Calamari in her Ethics, Social Responsibility & Diversity course this summer. “I’m very happy that the state recognized James’ efforts and that the initiative will be used elsewhere. Other people will now benefit from the mobile diversity concept.”

Calamari is pursuing an MPA to expand his knowledgebase in executive competencies within the public sector. He earned a bachelor of science in Management from International College in 2001 and a master of arts in Applied Science and Technology Emergency Management from Trinity College, in Texas, in 2002. Calamari also has countless certifications in various Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) courses, including emergency preparedness, disaster assistance, and hazardous materials response.

Calamari began his service to the public as an emergency medical technician in New York. He also served as a volunteer firefighter in Garden City and Mineola, New York, and as a firefighter/emergency medical technician in Golden Gate. Additionally, he is a HAZ/MAT training consultant in Naples and a volunteer for the annual New York State Games for the Physically Challenged. Calamari also volunteered with the Boy Scouts of America and the Goodwill Games.
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