Yes, it ‘tis the season and watching harried people move about trying to do everything that they have on the list proves it, but it’s another season too. This is also recognition season and I’m glad that it is. One of the indicators of a vibrant community in my mind is a place that takes time out to say thank you to people who deserve acknowledgment.
On Tuesday evening, December 13th at the University Mall, The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce took to the Mall stage for the annual “Salute to Community Heroes” program. As they put it in the evening’s program, they wanted to “recognize the men and women who make this community a safe, happy and health place to live, work and play.” Following the opening remarks from Chamber president Aaron Nelson, Nancy Kitterman of University Mall, and Justin Purdy on behalf of program sponsor Time Warner Cable Business Class, we heard musical selections from the United Voices of Praise.
Chris Barnes of First Citizens Bank served as the Master of Ceremony and he called each award recipient forward to receive his or her plaque from Nelson and Chair Board Chair Mark Pons of Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center. The first group of awards included:
  • The UNC Public Safety Officer of the Year, Sergeant Brian Wilson;
  • The Orange County EMS Employees of the Year, Paramedic Brook James and Paramedic Erin Ray;
  • The Chapel Hill Police Officer of the Year, Officer Stephen Slagle;
  • The Carrboro Police Officer of the Year, Sergeant Joseph Thomas
  • The Chapel Hill Fire Fighter of the Year, Master Firefighter Heather Robinson;
  • The Carrboro Fire Fighter of the Year, Fire Captain Carl Freeman.
Next, Mr. Nate Davis received acknowledgment as the “2011 Cal Horton Service Award” recipient and then special community award winners received plaques. Mary Andrews of “Our Children’s Place received the “Jim Gibson Volunteer of the Year Award;” Bruce Runberg was the “Town and Gown Award” recipient; Drew Melvin of St. Thomas More Church received the “Irene Briggaman Lifetime Achievement Award;” and Jay Miller of the Arts Center was the “2011 Citizen of the Year.”

What made this a really special evening was that there were plenty of people there to celebrate the achievements of those who protect us and those who volunteer in our community. Yes, we enjoyed great refreshments and the mall looked extra beautiful, but it was people who cared that made you know this was an important evening.
On Wednesday, January 14 at the Hargraves Center, many of the same people gathered to observe the presentation of the “2011 Cal Horton Service Award” to Nate Davis. Town Manager Roger Stancil recounted the numerous contributions during the Center’s supervisor’s 37 years of service to Chapel Hill’s Parks and Recreation Department, and then relatives, friends, and co-workers recounted their personal tributes. Friends like Fred Battle, another Town legend, told of the early days at Parks and Rec with no budget, but a full program of services to help mold the youth of Chapel Hill. Each speaker added another piece of the story of Nate Davis as a selfless servant to all. The fact that his fellow Town employees nominated him and other Town employees selected him from 11 other deserving nominees spoke volumes.
Clearly, relatives, friends, and co-workers presented plenty of evidence that Nate represents the best ideals of public service in all that he does day after day, and how he has done it year after year makes him especially deserving. The cash and plaque that accompanies the gift is great as an acknowledgment, but the lives that Nate touched over the years made our community a better place. As was stated, when some say Chapel Hill, they think of Nate Davis, and when others say Nate Davis, they think Chapel Hill.
‘Tis the season for sure, and honoring those who serve us and volunteer to make this a better place to live should always be in season.