Organization seeks nominations for community service recognition

Published 6:09 pm Saturday, October 3, 2015

An organization is calling area residents to nominate local first responders for their service to the community. A panel awaits nominations to judge finalists for a series of awards that will be announced at the Beaufort County Police Activities League annual dinner dance.

As part of its mission, BCPAL has used ways of improving relations between first responders and both youth and adults in the community, according to Al Powell, BCPAL president. In the past year, especially, PAL has been instrumental in providing an array of unique projects for local students, with an emphasis on encouraging area first responders to participate, facilitating interaction in a non-adversarial way.

The equally important mission to dissolve the barrier between first responders and the community is part of an ongoing effort to build trust and transparency in the county, Powell said. Due to the vast amount of incidents over the past year alone, involving tension between first responders and communities across the nation, the organization thought it vitally important to recognize some of the good deeds local first responders have done when serving the community.

“We thought the timing was excellent to do this type of recognition for our first responders — not to say the climate is bad that we’re expecting some type of friction, but we’re doing this proactively. You don’t need to have a crisis to notice the good deeds first responders are doing,” Powell said.

Powell said PAL, along with officials and representatives from departments in the area, decided to create four awards to present. With larger departments like the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, more calls and response and covering more ground means a higher chance of nominations. Out of that consideration came the idea of placing organizations with 15 employees or more in a bracket of its own and a bracket designed for those with less than 15 employees, as well as separating first responders and law enforcement. Two sets of awards — Law Enforcement Officer of the Year-Community Service and First Responder Community Service Award — will be given, one of each for large departments and one of each for small departments, Powell said.

Members of the community are asked to submit nominations for any law enforcement officials or first responders — EMTs, firefighters, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or other organization — that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide a community service or act of kindness when doing their job, Powell said.

“I think (this program) is critical,” Powell said. “We have some very dedicated law enforcement and first responders, providing a level of service to the community and being ambassadors of goodwill when no one really knows about it. I think some people have been touched by them in the community, and (residents) have never had a mechanism to share their good deeds with individuals. The positive acts of kindness over and above the call of duty just don’t seem to get the attention it should.”

Residents are asked to submit nominations for the awards by email, mail or by phone. The nominations will be reviewed by a committee of PAL directors and staff members, who will selected who they believe to have demonstrated the best examples of diversity, understanding, compassion, trust and good community relations between Oct. 30, 2014 and Oct. 30, 2015, according to a BCPAL press release. Citizens can provide their names or submit forms anonymously, but should provide: the name of the person they want to recognize; the department the individual works for; the date(s) of the event; a brief but detailed description of what was done by the responder; and why this actions represented an outstanding example of community service. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 30, and awards will be given at the BCPAL Dinner Dance on Nov. 7.

“If (community members) participate, it will send a signal of the professionalism that the community cherishes and cause an institutional change among first responders and encourage them to help others,” Powell said. “It’s a win-win for the community and the first responders in this line of work. It would make some of these folks, who very seldom get appreciation, feel like they’re on top of the world. If there is a terrible accident or a life-threatening event at home, some type of first responders are first on the scene, and how they deal with these situations is really heroic and remarkable.”

To submit a name for one of the four awards: call or leave a message at 252-948-9439, extension 30; email; or write a letter to BCPAL, 310 W. Main St., Peterson Building, Suite 202D, Washington, NC, 27889. Deadline for submissions is Oct. 30, 2015.