Banquet to honor first responders

Published 12:06 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When disaster strikes, many don’t think twice about the ones who risk their lives to save those who are in danger. From pulling those out of a house fire to helping pass out water to victims of a tornado, first responders play an integral part in the community. One local organization wants responders to know they are appreciated.

The Dallas County Local Emergency Planning Committee will sponsor a first responder banquet Friday, April 13 at 6 p.m. inside the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center. The first-ever event will honor the Selma Fire Department, Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, Care Ambulance, Selma Police Department and all Dallas County Volunteer Fire Departments.

Organizers of the event said the banquet is all about “teamwork and building relationships.”

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“I think it’s very good for all the responders,” Dallas County Emergency Agency director Rhonda Abbott said. “All too often our first responders respond and the gratitude is not there. The banquet couldn’t have been possible without community support, donations from businesses and corporate sponsorship. It allows the first responders to see that they are appreciated.”

Each agency has selected one person to name as a Responder of the Year, Abbott said. Nominees will receive a plaque during the banquet, recognizing their efforts from the respected department. An overall winner, who will be selected from a list of submitted names from each department, will also receive a plaque and trophy.

Selma Fire Chief Mike Stokes, who initiated the idea, said the idea came after he attended a conference in Atlanta.

“The speaker was talking about morale and motivating and it got me thinking what can we do here (Selma) to accomplish some of those goals?” Stokes said. “I jotted some things down and made a phone call to our EMA director Rhonda Abbott. She thought it was a good idea and I did too.”

Stokes credits Abbott and his secretary for getting the ball rolling for the event.

“They took the bull by the horns and made sure it was all put together,” Stokes said. “We’ve gotten tremendous corporate sponsors; it really took a woman’s touch to see how it was going to be and how things were to be decorated.”

Stokes said he’s excited about the event — it’s a time for responders and their families to fellowship.

“I think it’s going to be a great event for the entire county …  people are being appreciated for what they do,” Stokes said. “It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with people that go out everyday to help the citizens of Dallas County out.”

“The support we get from our families is tremendous,” Stokes said. “I can’t see anything but positive from this — some immediate and some long-term effects.”

Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley said the event is a great opportunity for first responders and volunteers to meet each other and he’s looking forward to it.

“We think it’s going to be a great thing to honor our first responders in Dallas County,” Riley said. “It gives us an opportunity to meet each other because a lot of times we don’t meet each other on day-to-day operations. It (also) gives us an opportunity to issue some awards to some of the people.”

The Dallas County LEPC would like to thank Care Ambulance, International Paper, Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Selma, Bama Budweiser, The Selma Times-Journal, Brady Mohammad, Body Builders Inc., Delcom, Meadows Tire Co. Inc., Frank Rogers Country Store, Noodie Carroll BBQ, Collins Communications, Prattville Printing and Steak Pit LLC for their contributions.