Salisbury Civitans chooses recipient for local hero award

Published 12:10 am Friday, September 15, 2023

SALISBURY — Every year since 2001, the Civitan Club of Salisbury gives out its Ernest Curtis Hero Award, an honor that Bill Bucher, past president and current chair of the hero award committee, says is “given to a person in the community who has met a challenge and taken some personal risk in order to make a sacrifice for another person or persons.”

The award is named after Ernest Curtis, a former Civitans member who was always pursuing acts of service that the organization is known for. They consider many candidates before deciding on the winner.

“It’s no coincidence that it’s happening around September 11 because that was how it started. The type of heroism that was intended to be recognized was the person who may not be in the line of fire normally, but it’s somebody who rises to the occasion and does something that later on, in many cases, they don’t even know how they did it. It’s an exciting thing, it’s an emotional thing, it’s a rewarding thing, and it’s something that our club takes great pleasure in doing every year,” Bucher said.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Country Club of Salisbury, Civitans had their award banquet to honor this year’s recipient, Toni Lynn Bolt. Back in July, there was a building on fire in Salisbury and a woman who was confined in her bed was trapped inside. Bolt, a personal care nurse for Comfort Keepers and also her caregiver, arrived to the house and smelled smoke. When she found the source of it, neighbors helped her get the woman out of there without a moment to lose before the fire department made it on to the scene.

Fire Division Chief of Rowan County Rescue Services Deborah Horne, the person who nominated Holt for the award, spoke on her act of bravery and how rare it is for an average person to endanger their own life to try and save someone else’s.

“If Ms. Bolt would have gotten stuck behind a train, got behind an accident, decided to stop and get a cup of coffee and be two minutes late, there’s a citizen that would not have lived that day. That is how close it comes,” Horne said. “You may think, ‘Oh, everybody will do that.’ I’m telling you, no they do not.”

When Bolt came to the afternoon meeting, she thought she was just the guest of her work supervisor, Latesha Bullock. When she slowly realized what was going on, she began to cry tears of joy.

“I was devastated, I didn’t know, it was out of the blue, I was lost for words,” Bolt said. “It’s so exciting I didn’t expect this award. So, it’s really an honor to get it…Honestly, I’ve been in the business for 20 years, this would really be the first time I’ve ever had to do anything like this.”

Sadly, the woman Bolt rescued recently passed away. For Bolt, it’s still emotional for her to talk about it given how close they were.

“I love her and I wish I could still be there for her. I’ve been with her for a very long time and that’s someone that I really got used to working with, being with, and helping,” Bolt said.