By Daniel Silliman
John Gavel carried a big, stainless steel pot of beans out of the kitchen, and set it on the table next to a basket of bread rolls.
Thirty-five years ago, Gavel, leading the Jonesboro Knights of Columbus, started an annual lunch to show appreciation for law enforcement officers. Wednesday, carrying the brown beans out of the kitchen, he offered second helpings to the 110 people from the county's fire department, police department and sheriff's office.
"We felt we ought to do something," Gavel said, recalling how the event was started. "I know they do a thankless job. Everybody takes them for granted."
At noon Wednesday, the Catholic fraternal service organization, Knights of Columbus Tara Council No. 6352, made an effort to correct that.
In a short program, the Knights said, thank you, and they specifically honored five people.
"We know that many, many of you do more than is required in your eight-hour shifts," said Leonard Chambliss. "We thank you, especially for the men and women who stepped forward, in this community, and have dedicated their talents and their lives to Clayton County."
The five individuals honored were nominated by their supervisors, and selected, Chambliss said, because they performed their duties extraordinarily, helped saved lives, and have shown a dedication to the county and been active in a religious organization.
Those honored were:
· David Ricks, Clayton County Police Officer of the Year
· LaQuinn Walker, Clayton County Fire Department Fireman of the Year
· Christopher Simpson, Clayton County Fire Department EMT/Paramedic of the Year
· Tammy York, Clayton County 911 Dispatcher of the Year
· Patrick McClellan, Clayton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Sheriff of the Year
Leo Hoeh, a Knight, described the honored public safety personnel as "people who stand up every day, and support the community."
McClellan was nominated for his work on gang and drug-prevention programs in the county's schools and for his involvement in the seizure of $4.5 million worth of drugs, during his 11 years at the sheriff's office.
"But I just consider doing it to be my job," he said. "It's what I do every day."
He appreciated the recognition and support, he said.
Jeff Hood, deputy chief with the Clayton County Fire Department, said all five of the recipients were very deserving. The annual event, he said, is motivating and supportive.
"The Knights of Columbus have always been a great partner with public safety, and we appreciate them," Hood said.