UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Valerie Yager says that helping others has been a life-long endeavor, volunteering at the housing projects she grew up in from the ages of 9 to 17. Taking out the garbage, sweeping the stairs, and going to the store were all daily a part of her daily routine. These acts of kindness are still carried out today, giving out clothes, food, and supplies to those who need them. Every year she “adopts” a family for Christmas or thanksgiving.

“A little 9-year-old girl that I met from the projects, I would accompany her to help with senior citizens that lived in our development. She has more certifications than I know, from CNA to RN to NP, her latest Certificate is in sign language. It’s not so much her accomplishments that people focus on but mostly her heart, her passion, her perseverance, her strength, her advocacy her compassion for all life forms.” – Lynn Kraszewski, Nominator

When Valerie’s lost her nephew to his battle with drug addiction, through the help of the local community, started the ‘Turn the page’ program, which focuses on raising awareness of opioid addiction and provides support to families through the ongoing crisis in the area. She eventually wants to turn it into a not-for-profit organization.

Valerie is currently a nurse practitioner and is certified to work with the hearing impaired as a sign language interpreter. As a member of the def community herself, she says it’s important for her to be able to provide normal conversation and communicate with her patients. To her, being def is not a disability it’s a “different ability.”

When we asked Valerie why it’s so important for her to help those around her in need no matter what their background or what they’re going through. She had this to say….

“Because I know their struggle. That’s why. I know their struggle and I’ve been the recipient of somebody helping somebody. When I was younger my mother used to get our Christmas gifts from churches because she couldn’t afford to buy them. When I was in nursing school a fellow student paid my last semester of tuition because I couldn’t afford it. I want to keep giving back and I will continue to keep giving back as long as I can.”