Nine recipients from five agencies were honored by church on Servant Leader Sunday
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) Sergeant Selena Williams and RCSD Corporal Kenneth Fitzsimmons received SERVANT LEADERSHIP AWARDs from Columbia’s Eastminster Presbyterian Church following a special awards luncheon, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, the eve of the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In addition to RCSD, first responders from four other Midlands-area agencies were honored, including the Columbia Police Department (with two police-officer recipients), the Forest Acres Police Department (one police-officer recipient), the Columbia-Richland Fire Department (two firefighter recipients), and Richland County Emergency Medical Services (two emergency medical technician recipients).
According to Dr. Bradley Smith, senior pastor at Eastminster, the two-fold criteria for recognition, included “consistent excellence in performance of duties” and “a demonstration above and beyond excellence in the areas of character, compassion, and community building.”
Both Williams and Fitzsimmons have been previously decorated with lofty departmental awards: and their individual acts of heroism have been chronicled in national media: Williams crawling inside burning cars (two separate incidents) and freeing and pulling trapped victims to safety, and Fitzsimmons grabbing a suicidal man from the edge of a bridge overpass, pulling him to safety and calming him down. Fitzsimmons is also a former U.S. Army combat infantry leader.
Eastminster Presbyterian presented Williams, Fitzsimmons, and the other seven recipients with personally engraved plaques and a check each for $1,000.
Recipients from neighboring agencies included Battalion Chief Kevin Sandifer and Officer Ariel Thomas, Columbia Fire Department; Emergency Medical Technician Annie Jeong and Senior Paramedic Amy Moak, Richland County Emergency Medical Services; Officer Daniel Haddad, Forest Acres Police Department; and Corporal Jamie Rogers and Master Police Officer Bernice Self, Columbia Police Department.
Members of the Eastminster congregation and staff attended the luncheon and ceremony as did recipient family members, friends, and co-workers. Among those gathered were Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins, Forest Acres Police Chief Don Robinson, City of Columbia Chief of Police Skip Holbrook, and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. Joining Lott were RCSD Deputy Chief Maria Yturria and Lieutenant Travis Roberts with RCSD’s Community Action Team.
“What Eastminster has done every year coinciding with the September 11 day of remembrance where so many first responders perished in 2001 is a generous expression of gratitude for these young men and women who today selflessly serve our communities often unsung and at great personal risk to themselves,” said Sheriff Lott, adding: “I was also heartened to hear the church leaders recognize my good friend, the late S.C. Representative Lloyd Inman Hendricks, who passed away earlier this year. Lloyd, as an Eastminster church elder, was a driving force more than three years ago in the establishment of this high community honor.”
– Pictured (L-R) are Sheriff Leon Lott, Sgt. Selena Williams, Cpl. Kenneth Fitzsimmons, and Chief Maria Yturria.