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CCFR hosts annual awards ceremony

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On Tuesday, December 14th, 2021, the Clarendon County Fire Rescue held their annual banquet at the Manning First Baptist Church. This is an annual Christmas and awards banquet where many receive awards in honor of their hard work and determination. Because of the COVID 19 pandemic that disrupted many events and annual traditions, the department was unable to hold this event last year in 2020. Making 2021 a better year by bringing back this annual event to honor those who have helped make a difference in their communities through the characteristics of each award received. Many people have contributed to the success of this annual Christmas and Awards banquet each year. Michael Johnson is the Chief of Clarendon County Fire Rescue. He serves over the combined services of fire, rescue, and emergency medical services. Johnson was named Fire Chief on July 10, 2019, and Clarendon County Fire Department merged with Clarendon EMS on July 1, 2020, forming Clarendon County Fire Rescue. At this banquet, many awards were given to multiple people. 

“We always try to get together to make sure we recognize our people,” said Johnson. “Our membership chooses all the award winners; it is not a hand-picked award-winning situation. Each member responds with who they have chosen for the award and why they have chosen that specific person for the award.” 

The award’s final winners will be decided by a popular vote. Two new awards were added last year to the merged organization. EMT of the Year and the Will Matthews Paramedic of the year. All the other awards presented at the banquet each year remained the same.

“We have a lot of humble, yet skilled people,” said Johnson. “They really love what they do. Their heart is in serving their community and those traveling through. It’s nice to see them all get recognized for everything they do. This was to give back to our membership and have a great time together.”

The Rookie-of-the-Year Award is the only award picked by the training division. Rookie of the Year was presented to Bryan Thompson by Josh Jordan, who has presented this award for the past two years. Jordan looks for three main qualities in the award winner: passion, commitment, and dependability. Thompson displayed all of these qualities and more when he was chosen for this award.

“We haven’t been together in a long time due to COVID 19. To be able to finally have it and see a packed house and enjoy each other; it was fantastic to have our banquet back and see everyone in that atmosphere, “ said Jordan when describing how the event turned out. Division Liaison Tom Coffey presented exceptional service to Patrick Brailsford in Division 1. Division 2 exceptional service award went to Lawrence “Junior” Odom, and Division 3 exceptional service award went to David Tindal, presented by Division Liaison Joseph Stukes. Tracy Benenhaley was named Firefighter of the Year. Taylor Baxley was named EMT of the Year. Ricky Barrett was named Officer of the Year. Lee Dennis was named Paramedic of the Year. Donnie Feagin, Randy McKee, and Joseph McLeod were all honored in the Hall of Fame. Many members were also honored for their years of service at the banquet. 5 Years of service include:Jerimy Baker,Will Baker, Derald Cox, Frances Feagin, Diashawn McFadden, Kevin Moye, Nick Myers,Johnny Pompey, William Rutland, Narongsak Saengjunt, Mark Thompson, Joseph Wynne. 10 Years include: Mary Beatson, Angel Duke, William “Travis” Floyd, Brennon “Cody” Jones, Oliver “Grayson” Moore, Denise Brown. 15 Years include:Marc Brewer, Michael Cothran, Scott Dunlap, Jason Hardy, Stephanie Hughes, Frank B. Jones, Jr, Crystal Miller, Leroy Todd III, Billy R. Ward. 20 Years of service include:Ricky Barrett, Todd English, Jeremy Evans, Michael A. Johnson, Jr, Mark R. “Randy” McKee, and Sidney D. Welch. 30 years of service include: Thom Barrineau, Gregory Holliday, and James P. “Buddy” Way. 35 Years include: Mitch McElveen and lastly 40 Years includes: Lawrence “Junior” Odom, Frances A. Richbourg, and David L. Tindal. The following officers were able to be pinned and sworn in at the banquet: Assistant Chief Bobby Ridgeway, Deputy Chief Brad Gerfin, Battalion Chief Steve Smith, Captain John Buchko, Captain Steve Demby, Captain Todd English, Captain Jeremy Evans, Captain K.J. Hall, Captain Wes Hanson, Captain Shannon Hingst, Captain Russell Lambert, Captain Crystal Miller, Captain Cody Odom, Lieutenant Daren Avins, Lieutenant Brandon Baxley, Lieutenant Chris Graham, Lieutenant Philip Hodge, Lieutenant James Mahoney. The following were unable to attend and will be pinned at a later date: Lieutenant Chancely Coker, Lieutenant Hunter Morris, and Lieutenant Jason Osteen. 

“I’d like to personally thank all of those who helped organize and plan this event,” said Johnson. “In addition, I would like to thank Sumter Fire Department and South Lynches Fire Department for covering stations to allow our members to attend.”

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