The Harlem Department of Public Safety employees gathered for a feast of Lowcountry boil and cake to honor two of their own at the department's recent annual meeting.
The department named Investigator Kelvin Hartwell as Public Safety Officer of the Year and firefighter Kevin Stokes as Firefighter of the Year at the Dec. 17 meeting at a Harlem fire station.
Both men were elected by their colleagues to receive the honors for the second consecutive year.
Chief Jerry Baldwin said he and the public safety employees voted to name Hartwell the 2006 award winner.
"He's very dedicated and very loyal, an all-out hard worker," Baldwin said. "He cares about the community. And without fail, he asks me daily what he needs to do for me. He's just a caring person."
Hartwell said he's worked for the department about five years and says the award means a lot coming from his colleagues.
"I just try to do what I'm asked to do, stay on top of things," he said.
Stokes, a full-time firefighter for Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue, was voted top firefighter by all the department's volunteer firefighters, Baldwin said.
"This is someone who does a lot behind the scenes," Baldwin said. "Again, this speaks volumes about this young man and what he is able to do for the city of Harlem."
Stokes, 20, said he was surprised to earn the award last year and wasn't expecting to be honored a second time.
"I started in the Explorer program at 16," said Stokes, who became an official department volunteer at 18.
Current volunteers were joined at the meeting by the mayor, city council members and about 10 retired volunteer firefighters.
"All these guys were on the fire department when I came on and we learned a lot from them," Capt. Scott Johnson said of the department veterans. "It is good to be able to see the legacy that we have and then to see the future that we have with our new firefighters."
Capt. Tripp Lonergan said he hoped the retired firefighters will serve as an inspiration to the younger ones.
"There's 275 years of dedication among you all right there," Lonergan said after having the retirees stand. "To you young guys, that is something to look forward to. That is something to be proud of, that you are a part of a group of folks who dedicate their time and aren't scared to get up and out of bed at 2 or 3 a.m. and go."
Lonergan said he was excited about the growth the department has seen this year and the efforts to better the city's fire service. A new fire engine replaced an older retired model this year and January will bring the department's first EMT program.
"I'm really proud of that," Lonergan said, "to know that the citizens of Harlem are really, really getting more bang for their buck."
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