Groups recognized for “above and beyond” assistance during Hurricane Irma disaster

WALTON COUNTY SCHOOL Superintendent Russell Hughes and Gail Smith, Walton County School Board member, accept an Exemplary Service Award plaque from Walton County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Bill Chapman and Jeff Goldberg, county emergency management director. From left: Jeff Goldberg, Russell Hughes, Gail Smith, and Bill Chapman. (Photo by Dotty Nist)

By DOTTY NIST
A number of organizations were recently presented with “Exemplary Service Award” plaques in recognition of having gone “above and beyond” the call of duty in their assistance to evacuees, residents and visitors as the county prepared for and responded to the impacts of Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) Chairman Bill Chapman and Jeff Goldberg, Walton County emergency management director, shared the honor of presenting the plaques on the occasion of the Jan. 9 BCC regular meeting at the South Walton Annex.
Delivering brief remarks, Goldberg emphasized that all entities involved in efforts associated with the disaster situation “did a phenomenal job.” He explained that the awards were being presented to organizations and entities that “basically went above and beyond,” in their efforts to help evacuees, residents, and visitors safe, even providing assistance that had not been part of the plan and was outside job descriptions. Some of the groups had never been involved in disaster response in the past, Goldberg noted.
Assistance by the organizations, Goldberg continued, had included hosting evacuees, arranging for and providing volunteers for shelters and staffing for Walton County Emergency Management’s citizen information line, arranging for and providing meals for shelter guests and volunteers, furnishing equipment, logistics, transport, set up and breakdown of equipment, and even providing emotional and spiritual support for evacuees.

BRANDON ELKINS (center) accepts an Exemplary Service Award on behalf of the Matrix Community Outreach Center. (Photo by Dotty Nist)

Plaques were issued to the Walton County School District, the Matrix Community Outreach Center, Southwide Baptist Church in DeFuniak Springs, Destiny Worship Center – Freeport Campus, and the city of DeFuniak Springs. The latter two entities did not have a representative in attendance at the meeting to accept their plaques, but Goldberg pledged that those plaques would be delivered and presented.
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander also asked for a hand to go to Emergency Management’s three-member staff, calling them “phenomenal,” as well.
Goldberg also thanked Comander for her volunteer efforts during the emergency, which had included making sure that staff members and volunteers did not go hungry.

SENIOR PASTOR Jeremy Lewis of Southwide Baptist Church in DeFuniak Springs (center) is presented with an Exemplary Service Award plaque. (Photo by Dotty Nist)

“Thank you,” Chapman concluded, “to everyone that assists this county and our emergency management personnel when we have these types of disasters.”