Dawson County Emergency Services recently recognized its top employees of 2011 and paid special tribute to five individuals who made significant contributions to the department over the last three decades.
Capt. Jason Dooley was named Career Employee of the Year, while Capt. Douglas Wofford received recognition for his volunteer work with the department during a ceremony Dec. 3.
Both men said they were honored to receive the awards.
"Of course, there is no way I could have received this award had it not been for the support of the wonderful people that work with me and especially the employees on A-shift," Dooley said. "These guys and gal are some of the hardest working people I have ever supervised. They make my job easy."
Director Billy Thurmond said Dooley's leadership, coupled with the work he does above and beyond his daily duties, made him the obvious choice.
"He's one of our lead people in our Fire House Program, which is what we use to manage and maintain our records," Thurmond said. "He is just willing to do what it is that needs to be done."
A veteran firefighter, Wofford has served Dawson County Emergency Services for more than three decades in a volunteer capacity.
"When I think of this gentleman, I think of commitment and pride in what he does, because he is dedicated," Thurmond said last month. "When you volunteer for 32 years protecting your community, you're dedicated to that cause."
Wofford said he was humbled by the recognition.
"Some people have the calling to preach, but to me, this was my calling to help people," he said.
Several pioneers of emergency services in Dawson County received Lifetime Achievement awards at the banquet.
"These individuals have toiled, sacrificed, labored and dedicated many long hours to make the service we enjoy today as employees, volunteers, and citizens a reality," said Chief Lanier Swafford.
A county native and local mechanic, Harold Reece was often referred to as the "fire truck driver" in the early days and made tire and other repairs to ambulances and fire trucks, often at no charge.
Reece said two of his most memorable calls were in 1962 and 1964 to put out fires at the high school.
Now retired, he continues to support the department.
"For his quiet and yet solid dedication to the citizens of Dawson County and for helping to make a better community than he found, it is my pleasure to present Harold Reece as a recipient of the Dawson County Emergency Services Lifetime Achievement Award," Swafford said.
Also honored were Junior and Juanita Garrett, who Swafford described as "major threads in the fabric of the Kilough community."
The couple was instrumental in the formation of Fire Station 3 on Harmony Church Road.
"He provided labor to construct the station and he and Juanita spent many long hours cooking those famous, hot biscuits at the fall festival to raise money for the church, fire department and community club," Swafford said.
Recipient Lyman Smith was also heavily involved in the early stages of developing the department.
Beginning as a volunteer in the late 1960s, he and others traveled the county in search of recruits to staff and support the Dawsonville Fire Department.
"He and his family later were heavily involved with the development of the Liberty Fire Department - now known as Station 2," Swafford said. "For many years, his family endured the grueling task of hosting an alarm siren for the fire department atop their home."
According to the family, "the whole house shook when that thing went off."
That siren represents an era of Dawson County Emergency Services history and is now on display at Station 2.
Charles Finley, a local educator, was also recognized for his contributions to the department.
A volunteer in the mid-1970s, Finley was one of the first men in the county to receive official EMT training and often left school to respond to emergency situations.
Although his passion as an educator won out over emergency services, Finley helped produce many leaders throughout this community today, including several who are or were firefighters, EMTs and paramedics, Swafford said.