Man who helped community during pandemic wins overall Everyday Heroes award
Ram Upreti often spends his days putting the needs of others before himself.
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit Ohio in March 2020, the 60-year-old Gahanna man has been dedicated to keeping the Bhutanese-Nepali community in Greater Columbus informed and safe from the virus. He's gone door-to-door distributing masks, hand sanitizer and information, and has even gone so far as to drop off vegetables and herbal medicines to homes where he knew a family was sick.
Upreti's willingness to help others put his own health at risk, as he contracted COVID in June 2020.
But with the pandemic closely approaching the two-year mark, Upreti, a Bhutanese-Nepali refugee who spent more than 18 years living in refugee camps, remains committed to helping his community and others.
Upreti's selfless acts have earned him the honor of winning the overall Everyday Heroes award from the Dispatch.
The announcement was made during a television program on NBC4 Wednesday devoted to honoring the 2021 class of Everyday Heroes. As the winner, Upreti will get to direct a $10,000 grant from the Columbus Foundation to a nonprofit charity of his choice.
"I feel so proud to be nominated as an Everyday Hero," he said.
Started in 2017, the Everyday Heroes program honors those who make a difference in Greater Columbus by healing, uniting and improving their communities.
The process of choosing the 2021 group of 25 Everyday Heroes started months ago when the Dispatch asked for nominations. Five finalists and 20 semifinalists were then featured in a special publication last month by the Dispatch, Dispatch Magazines and ThisWeek Community News.
The four other finalists each will receive $7,500 in marketing services from the Dispatch for an organization of their choice. They are:
- Dave Baker, who shares his story of living with AIDS to spread awareness to marginalized communities.
- Debra McCauley, who has been preparing meals in her tiny North Side apartment for the past year and delivering them to some of the poorer pockets of the city.
- Olivia Nathan, a pharmacist who works to vaccinate communities of color and educate Black women on HIV prevention.
- Mark Sigrist has used his energy and organizational skills to start a 5K for charity and worked to include and boost those with special needs.
Upreti is the site coordinator for the Karl Road offices of Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS), a Columbus organization that helps immigrants and refugees settle here and become self-sufficient with employment and family care.
When the COVID-19 vaccine became readily available earlier this year, Upreti went even further with his community outreach by attempting to combat vaccine hesitancy. He went to convenience stores, groceries, community centers and shops all over the North Side, looking to help not just his own Bhutanese-Nepali community but the Latino and Somali populations, Black and brown communities, and others.
Through his efforts, he helped register more than 500 people to get vaccinated.
“I knocked on doors to tell people this was a must," Upreti previously told the Dispatch. "We have to take care of ourselves, our families and our people."
The sponsors of Everyday Heroes are AEP, Atlas Butler, the Columbus Foundation, CME Federal Credit Union, COSI, NBC4 and the United Way of Central Ohio.
Dispatch reporter Holly Zachariah contributed to this story.