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Rotary names Public Service Award recipients

SALISBURY — Last week the Rotary Club of Salisbury continued a long tradition, virtually, of recognizing local first responders.

The organization’s Public Service Awards recognize people in city police and fire departments as well as EMS, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and State Highway Patrol. Every category awards a young public service worker and an agency veteran.

These are this year’s recipients:

Salisbury Police Department

Young: Matthew A. Cohn

Veteran: Lt. Patrick J. Smith

Salisbury Fire Department

Young: Jake Richardson

Veteran: Michael Spry

Rowan EMS

Young: Mason Dillard

Veteran: Hunter Morgan

State Highway Patrol

 Young: Trooper Jarod D. Raper

Veteran: Trooper Denny R. Morgan

Rowan Sheriff’s Office

Young: Det. Jessica Abrams

Veteran: Det. Oliver Greene

Rotarian and Salisbury City Attorney Graham Corriher has been hosting the program for the past few years. He said it is a favorite of the club.

“We leave it to the community agencies to decide who to honor,” Corriher said, adding some will ask outside agencies to make selections because internally they have trouble deciding between large crops of good candidates.

Graham said the work these people do is important any year, but the awards are specially important this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Corriher said these people are in close contact with the public regardless of a pandemic or if it is safe to do so.

“These officers are out there, these courtesy techs are out there, these firefighters are out there morning, noon and night, any year,” Corriher said, recounting a firefighter rescuing someone who fell off a bridge while trying to save someone else saying they were just going after one of their own.

Rotarian and Rowan County Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding said recognizing local first responders is one of the highlights of the year, and the club was hoping to hold the program in person earlier this year, but the club is only meeting virtually amid the ongoing pandemic and state-level gathering restrictions put in place by executive orders by Gov. Roy Cooper.

In a normal year, the in-person celebration would include a lunch with the recipients, but they still got a chance to be recognized in front of community leaders. At the end, everyone turned their microphones on to give the awardees a standing ovation.

Spalding said the club has been taking some time during a couple of meetings every year, as long as she can remember to thank first responders. The club recently celebrated 100 years, and she suspects it dates back to the early days of the club in following the model “service above self.”

Spalding said sometimes people are so busy they do not get to stop and say “thank you.” This year she thinks it is extra important.

“These awards tie in with our mission and we are honored to recognize and thank all of the first responders,” Spalding said.

Highway patrol officers were not there to be recognized last week due to a mixup, but their names were read and they will be recognized at the club’s meeting next week.

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