Firefighters honored at banquet
By By Chuck Bodiford Publisher
Saturday night, the city of Atmore played host to over 200 people with the Escambia County Volunteer Fire Association's annual banquet. The banquet serves to recognize the efforts and achievements of firefighters around the county.
Atmore's Theresa Cox of the Poarch Volunteer Fire Department was named Female Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. Other nominees were Ginny Tyler of the Appleton Vol. Fire Department and Mary Sells of the McCullough Vol. Fire Department.
For years of service, five of Atmore's own were recognized by the Escambia County Professional Firefighter's Association, Local Chapter 4101 of the International Association of Firefighters. These five firefighters each have over 20 years of service for combined, century's worth of experience. The firefighters are Insp. Dan A. Currie, Chief Gerry McGhee, Capt. Lavon Parham, Capt. Mike Roberts who is serving with the 711th overseas and Capt. Mike Staples.
The banquet began with Joey Moffett calling the meeting to order and members of the Alabama Association of Volunteer Fire Departments Honor Guard posting the colors of the nation and state. Following the posting of the colors, the National Anthem was sung by Jill Murphy and invocation delivered by William Gorum.
While dinner was commencing, the crowd was entertained by a lineup of speakers. Present were Alabama State representatives Skippy White and Greg Albritton who each gave remarks before the guest speaker, David Coggins. Coggins is the regional coordinator of the Alabama Emergency Management Association and was able to provide some insight to the Alabama EMA and their numerous roles.
Other awards presented Saturday night were the A.C. Cook Memorial Award, the Career Firefighter of the Year award, the EMS Person of the Year award, the Female Firefighter of the Year award and the Male Firefighter of the Year award.
Eddie Kirby was the recipient of the A.C. Cook Memorial. Other nominees were Ruth Johnston of the Boykin – Damascus Vol. Fire Department, and Barbara Stephens of the Poarch Vol. Fire Department.
The next award presented was to the firefighter chosen as the Career Firefighter of the Year. Only two firefighters were nominated for this award, with one of the firefighters being one of Atmore's own. Nominated for the award were Lavon Parham of the Atmore Fire Department and Michael (Mike) Steele of the Brewton Fire Department. Mike Steele was chosen as the recipient of the award.
Ronnie Thompson of the Brewton Fire Department was named EMS Person of the Year. Nominees were Jeremy Blackmon of the Atmore Fire Department, John Sells of the McCullough Vol. Fire Department and William Kirby of the Poarch Vol. Fire Department.
Jason Hiebert of the Atmore Fire Department was the first name called as a possible recipient of the Male Volunteer Firefighter of the Year award. Other nominees were Michael Tyler of the Appleton Male Vol. Fire Department, Robbie Crenshaw of the Brewton Fire Department, David Sells of the McCullough Vol. Fire Department and Danny Lowrey of the Poarch Vol. Fire Department. Michael Tyler was the recipient of this award.
After all the awards were presented a time of mourning took place as the crowd remembered one of their own. As reported in the October 29, 2003 issue of the Brewton Standard, a two-car accident took the lives of a woman, Chastity Hutchcraft and her young son, Lane Hutchcraft, in the McCall community jut outside Brewton. Hutchcraft was a substitute teacher with the Escambia County schools and a member of the McCall Volunteer Fire department.
The AAVFD Honor Guard, which is a unit for ceremonies, funerals, parades, etc., much like the military was on hand to honor this firefighter's memory. As bagpipes where played, the Honor Guard presented arms, or saluted, the family of Hutchcraft. It was quite evident that as the audience stood and a whisper not uttered, that Hutchcraft was deeply loved by all those around her and will be greatly missed.
Right before the invocation was given William Gorum made a few remarks, one of which stands out. He described what it means to be a firefighter, the dedication needed and the role they play by simply saying, "We are always working to help someone else."
This was the fifth annual banquet the organization has held, with last year being in Brewton. The banquet was held at the Atmore Lyons Community Center from 6 to 8 p.m., with steak being served as the main course, compliments of Pig Daddy's.