The Cobb Chamber of Commerce had its 19th annual Public Safety Employee Appreciation during the First Monday Breakfast and honored first responders from every police, fire and paramedics provider in the area.
The breakfast is the kickoff of a weeklong celebration of those who protect and serve Cobb County on a daily basis.
There were nearly 700 in attendance at Monday morning’s breakfast, including 270 public safety officials.
During the nearly two-hour event, seven individuals and groups were recognized as winners of one of the four awards the Chamber gives out annually.
The highest honor at the ceremony — Public Safety Employee of the Year –– was awarded to EMT-Intermediate Kim Burnette with MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service.
“To actually be the winner of such an award, I was absolutely surprised,” said the 28-year-old Gilmer County resident.
Burnette, who joined MetroAtlanta five years ago, was recognized for a June 2012 incident during which she stopped on her way to work to help a man who was involved in a hit-and-run accident.
She is credited with performing CPR on the man until EMS arrived and, without her help, he would have died at the scene, police say.
“I’m humbled to work with the other men and women who are so amazing in this field,” she said after receiving her glass-blown eagle in front of a crowd that gave her a round of applause.
“It becomes a part of who you are and we don’t think twice about what we do and to have people actually recognize us … it’s always flattering,” she said.
Two individuals were recognized as Distinguished Achievement Award winners.
Paramedic Phil Douglas with MetroAtlanta was recognized for being active in sending care packages to combat medics in Afghanistan. He has helped send two tons of packages since 2012.
Lt. Patrick Stewart with the Marietta Fire Department was honored for helping the city earn a grant that assists individuals with hearing impairments to install specialized smoke detectors in their homes. To date, 120 have been installed.
The 2013 Award of Merit recipients were Cobb County Police Det. Ray Drew, Puckett EMS and the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Unit.
Drew is credited with helping bust a local suspect who was allegedly distributing child porn online.
Puckett EMS was recognized for keeping a man alive responding to a call about someone who was suffering from heart failure.
The Fugitive Unit was recognized for the search efforts and arrest of John Kristofak last fall that resulted in the conviction and subsequent life-in-prison sentence for Kristofak in the murder of his ex-wife.
The Medal of Valor was awarded to Officers Grant Gosforth and Rachel Sneed with the Cobb Police.
They were recognized for a July 2012 incident where they saved a man from the Chattahoochee River after he reportedly fled the scene of an incident where he was accused of assaulting a family member.
The guest speaker for the celebration was former University of Georgia head football coach and Athletic Director Vince Dooley.
He said he was honored to be a part of the celebration and that in preparing for his speech, he learned that 12 of his former athletes now or previously worked for police or fire departments.
“They all have the same story,” Dooley said when talking to each of them before Monday to find out what was so special about working in public safety.
“To connect with the families and the neighbors that are taking a loss of somebody or a home … to see the appreciation for the work that they do, that is the kind of satisfaction they get out of that,” he said.