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Ten Local Heroes Honored at Annual Salute to Community Heroes

Ten Local Heroes Honored at Annual Salute to Community Heroes

Member News Event Partnership for a Sustainable Community Connect Advocate

The Chamber recognized 10 officers, firefighters, and emergency services personnel that made a positive impact on the Greater Chapel-Hill Carrboro community throughout 2021.

Chapel Hill, NC: The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro hosted its annual “Salute to Community Heroes” to award 10 local heroes for selfless acts of service and a commitment to the local community on December 16, 2021. The 19th annual awards ceremony was presented by AT&T and held at the Sheraton Hotel in Chapel Hill.

Ten Honorees

1. Trey Kennedy, Sergeant, Carrboro Police Department Officer of the Year

2. Victoria Donahue, Driver Operator, Carrboro Fire-Rescue Department Firefighter of the Year

3. Kyle Stuart, Officer, Chapel Hill Department Officer of the Year

4. Patrick Spencer, Captain, Chapel Hill Department Firefighter of the Year

5. Dylan Ray Hendricks, Investigator, Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year

6. Sarah Pickhardt, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, Orange County Emergency Services Employee of the Year

7. Julio Perez, Firefighter, Orange Rural Firefighter of the Year

8. Scott Laster, Technical Rescuer, South Orange Rescue Squad Member of the Year

9. Uniformed Patrol Division, UNC Police Officer of the Year

10. Diego Herrera, Officer, UNC Hospitals Police Officer of the Year

About the Event

The 10 honorees, including officers and emergency response personnel, were peer-selected for their valuable contributions to their offices and service to our community. The event was held following a Local Government Appreciation Reception, presented by Enitech IT Support, on the Legends Terrace at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

The 2021 officer awards were presented by AT&T Regional Director of External Affairs, Robert Doreauk, with Carrboro Mayor Seils, Chief Schmidt, and Chief Atack; Chapel Hill Mayor Hemminger, Chief Harris, and Chief Blue; Orange County Board of County Commissioners Chair Price, Emergency Services Director Saunders, and Sheriff Blackwood; and South Orange Rescue Squad Board Chair Stipe and Chief Mauzy.

The awards ceremony was held at the Sheraton Chapel Hill with 150 attendees, including the Chamber Board of Directors, members, and staff; local elected and senior government officials; and friends, families, and colleagues of the honorees. The awards ceremony opened with a vocal performance by Seth Hoyle and refreshments were provided by the Sheraton Catering staff.

Pictures from the event were captured by local photographer Trevor Holman. The sponsors for the evening included AT&T (Presenting Sponsor); Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and UNC Health Care (Community Champions); and Car Mill Mall, Enitech IT Support, Joel Levy CPA, Overture Chapel, Samet Corporation and ServPro of South Durham and Orange County (Event Sponsors).

View photos from the event.


Carrboro Police Department Officer of the Year: Sergeant Trey Kennedy

Sergeant Trey Kennedy was hired and sworn into the Carrboro Police Department in December 2009. Before he was assigned to the Criminal Investigations Unit in June of 2018, Sgt. Kennedy served the department as a Patrol Officer and Field Training Officer. Currently, his duties include investigating crimes against persons and property, crime scene processing, and conducting background investigations on applicants to the police department. Sgt. Kennedy has proven himself to be competent, resourceful, and tenacious as an investigator and in 2021, he served as the lead investigator on several challenging cases. Sgt. Kennedy’s focus, attention to detail, and resourceful actions lead to each of the cases being successfully closed with arrests. Sgt. Kennedy is an excellent team player, freely offering his time and aid to others within his division and within the department. He always has a great attitude and provides a strong sense of synergy within the department. For his extensive leadership and dedication to Carrboro, we are pleased to recognize Sgt. Kennedy as the 2021 Carrboro Police Department Officer of the Year.

Carrboro Fire-Rescue Department Firefighter of the Year: Driver Operator Victoria Donahue

Victoria Donahue joined the Carrboro Fire-Rescue Department in 2016 and was promoted to Driver Operator in March 2021. Exemplifying the selflessness that the public associates with members of the Carrboro Fire Department, Donahue has shown innovation and dedication to the car seat program, and a newly created mentorship program, since 2020. When the car seat program was forced to discontinue the Saturday clinics due to the pandemic, Donahue partnered with Chapel Hill Fire Department and Safe Kids to establish an appointment-based program that allowed expectant parents to have car seats installed or checked before their children were brought home from the hospital. She worked tirelessly to host a car seat technician class and a car seat installation class for children with special needs. Having seen the need for senior firefighters to share their knowledge, skills, and abilities with new firefighters, Donahue is also part of a small group that is developing a mentoring program for new firefighters. For her innovative leadership and multi-faceted contributions to the department and the community of Carrboro, we are proud to recognize Driver Operator Victoria Donahue as the 2021 Carrboro Fire-Rescue Department Firefighter of the Year.

Chapel Hill Police Department Officer of the Year: Officer Kyle Stuart

Officer Kyle Stuart was sworn in as a Chapel Hill Police officer six years ago and made an immediate impact. In addition to his duty as a Patrol Officer, Stuart assists officers with identifications of potential suspects and helps with proper charges to close out cases. Officer Stuart is widely known as a dedicated, hard-working employee who goes above and beyond his normal daily duties as a patrol officer. Over the past year, Kyle investigated a catalytic converter theft ring that affected citizens of Chapel Hill and surrounding jurisdictions. Kyle assisted investigators by putting in long hours, outside of his normal workday, to follow leads and analyze patterns in the attempt to make an arrest. In the end, Officer Stuart was able to identify and charge the individuals responsible, not only for the Chapel Hill thefts, but for multiple other surrounding agencies, too. His effort on these cases speaks to the dedication and hard work that Stuart displays to make Chapel Hill a safer place for all. Because of his investigative skills and a willingness to always help, Kyle Stuart was selected as an Investigator and will join the division in the coming months. For his commitment to the community, we are proud to recognize Officer Kyle Stuart as the 2021 Chapel Hill Police Department Officer of the Year.

Orange County Emergency Services Employee of the Year: Sarah Pickhardt

Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Sarah Pickhardt joined Orange County Emergency Services in 2018 and has coordinated the county’s mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts related to disasters and significant incidents since. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pickhardt led the coordination of the Planning Section of the Orange County Emergency Operations Center. She assumed the EOC manager role midway through the COVID-19 pandemic and was instrumental in coordinating support to the community, which included supporting the non-congregate sheltering program that provided safe shelter for those at risk of homelessness. In addition, Sarah has remained a steadfast advocate and integral team member of the County's Governmental Alliance on Race and Equity working group. Pickhardt consistently meets every challenge placed before her with compassion, respect, and empathy and serves as a role model to aspiring emergency managers, frequently mentoring others within and outside of the organization. For her dedicated work to Orange County Emergency Services, we are proud to recognize Sarah Pickhardt as the 2021 Orange County Emergency Services Employee of the Year.

Orange County Sheriff Employee of the Year: Investigator Dylan Ray Hendricks

Investigator Dylan Ray Hendricks began working for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in 2009, moved into the Criminal Investigations Division in 2018, and currently serves as is a leader on the Special Response Team. In his current role, Hendricks investigates felony criminal cases and uses cell phone forensic capabilities to aid Orange County and surrounding agencies. In 2020, Investigator Hendricks received a Lifesaver Award from the Orange County Emergency Services department for saving a citizen’s life on the side of Interstate 40. Hendricks successfully located an elderly woman missing for four days in 2019, and a missing three-year-old in June of 2020. Investigator Hendricks is making a name for himself—and the Sheriff’s Office—with his forensic cell phone processing abilities, and other area agencies are now seeking his assistance with their cases. As part of his preparation for growth within the Sheriff’s Office, he is currently pursuing a Criminal Justice Degree at Western Carolina University. Despite his professional full plate, Hendricks continues to shine as a husband and as the father of two young girls. We are proud to recognize Investigator Dylan Ray Hendricks as the 2021 Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year.

South Orange Rescue Squad [SORS] Member of the Year, Technical Rescuer Scott Laster

Scott Laster has been a member of the South Orange Rescue Squad's Technical Rescue Team for more than a year where he works as a part of the High Angle Rescue, Water Rescue, and Land Search response efforts. Laster assists with monthly gear inspections to ensure operational readiness and has made himself available for several statewide deployments for searches and disaster response. Laster has volunteered to take on additional duties during his tenure which include being a member of the Membership Committee and serving as the Chair of the Fundraising Committee. With a positive attitude and contagious willingness to help, Laster personifies the team's mantra of "always flexible”, adapting to any situation or task that's asked of him. Laster is always willing to take on new roles where he can leverage his professional career and life experiences for the benefit of the organization. For his mentorship and his selfless service to the South Orange Rescue Squad, we are proud to recognize Scott Laster as the 2021 SORS Member of the Year.

Orange Rural Firefighter of the Year, Firefighter Julio Perez

Julio Perez joined the Orange Rural Fire Department in June of 2020. As a firefighter and EMT, he is responsible for daily truck and equipment checks, station maintenance, public safety education, and answering emergency calls. A year and a half into his tenure, Julio has two “life saves” with the Orange Rural Fire Department. Firefighter Perez is always eager to help with any task and always does whatever is asked of him and is recognized as consistently dependable, hardworking, kind, honest, and compassionate. Through his work, he shows his peers and supervisors every day that he loves his job and the community by taking initiative to mentor new hires. For his service to rural Orange County and Hillsborough, we are pleased to honor Julio Perez as the 2021 Orange Rural Fire Department Firefighter of the Year.

UNC Police Officer of the Year, Uniformed Patrol Division

The recipient of UNC Chapel Hill Police Offer of the Year is the entire UNC Police Patrol Division. The Patrol Division went above and beyond the call of duty during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Each officer adapted to the shifting dynamic of UNC’s campus and the atypical way of providing service. The officers adapted to this new way of life and continue to provide outstanding customer service. The entire division proved invaluable during such a challenging time. We are pleased to present the 2021 UNC Police Officer of the Year award to the Uniformed Patrol Division.

UNC Hospitals Police Officer of the Year, Officer Diego Herrera

Officer Diego Herrera has worked for the UNC Hospitals Police Department for 11 years and serves as one of the department’s most seasoned and experienced officers. Officer Herrera engages patients, staff, and visitors in a positive and helpful manner. Officer Herrera epitomizes UNC Health's Core Values and takes ownership of, and accountability for doing the right thing. A recipient of the 2021 Officer of the Quarter and 2021 Life Saving Awards, Officer Herrera believes in making a difference by improving lives every day, and truly believes it’s a privilege to serve the people of North Carolina. Officer Herrera has served as a role model to new officers and regularly helps to train and mentor new officers. For his character and dedication, we are thrilled to name Officer Diego Herrera as 2021 UNC Hospitals Police Officer of the Year.

About The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro: The Chamber is a membership organization that serves and advances the business interests of Greater Chapel Hill, including the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro as well as southern Orange, northern Chatham, and southwest Durham counties. The Chamber's network is growing with nearly 1,000-member enterprises that employ more than 95,000 workers throughout the region. Together with its network, The Chamber is committed to building a sustainable community where business thrives. Members count on The Chamber to help them connect, promote, advocate, and save money.

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