By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer
On Nov. 4, 2017, Mison Woo received the life-changing news. That was the day her husband, Gerardo “Jerry” Juarez, died on the job.
The 39-year-old father of five was working as a roofer at a work site in Akron alongside a few colleagues when he slipped on the damp cedar roof of an apartment building, slid to the edge and rolled over a jack board before falling three stories to the ground.
A report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed Gerardo and his co-workers were not using fall-arrest equipment and had not received training from their employer on fall hazards. OSHA would eventually fine the employer nearly $150,000.
Since that day, a mother and her family have dealt with the reality of losing a husband and father suddenly and far too soon. Last Thanksgiving and Christmas were especially trying times for a family still coming to terms with such a tragic loss.
A mission to help
A year later, members of the Canton-Akron (CAK) Safety Council made it their mission to give the family a brighter and merrier Christmas. It started with the council’s steering committee floating the idea of the council and NE Ohio OSHA Area Office adopting the family for the holidays. Deb Bailey, BWC’s liaison to the CAK Safety Council, got the greenlight and pitched the idea to OSHA Area Director Howie Eberts. He loved the idea and reached out to the family.
Bailey recalls the council first hearing about Gerardo’s incident and its aftermath when Eberts gave an OSHA update at a council meeting shortly after the fatal incident occurred. For Eberts, the investigation had been different than most.
By coincidence, he met some of the family at the incident site when they came to retrieve Gerardo’s cell phone. Eberts introduced himself to Mison and two of her children who were with her, including her son, Gerardo Jr., and explained why he was at the site. He later recalled Junior’s heartbreaking demeanor.
He told the safety council’s members that when he looked at the son, he saw a look of total disbelief that his father was gone. Eberts, with a family and children of his own, remembered it really hitting home because he wondered what would happen to his family under similar circumstances.
Coming together for a family
Fast forward to the November 2018 CAK Safety Council meeting. At the meeting the council heard the idea of adopting the Juarez family and supported it 100 percent. “Every year, we do something to give back to the community around this time of year,” Bailey says. “Supporting this family, that the council had heard so much about, seemed like the perfect idea.”
That day alone, the council collected $500 in gift card donations for the family. In the weeks after, BWC employees, council members and OSHA employees collected even more. The final tally ended up being more than $2,500 in gifts, cash and gift cards for the family. Last Wednesday, the CAK Safety Council prepped the gifts at the North Canton Chamber of Commerce. Last Friday, Eberts (as Santa) and CAK Safety Council members (his elves) delivered everything to Mison at her workplace.
A year ago, Eberts crossed paths with a family in its darkest hour. This year, he and so many others got to give them some brightness and joy for Christmas.