Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce presented its annual Public Safety Awards Monday night to two Fairfax County police officers and a firefighter during a holiday dinner at the Cedar Knolls Restaurant.
More than 200 members and their guests mingled inside the George Washington Memorial Parkway eatery for their holiday party, which highlighted the naming of two recipients of Police Officer of the Year and one Firefighter of the Year. They also recognized Capt. Shawn Barrett, Mount Vernon District Police Station, and Capt. Jim Morris, Franconia District Police Station, for their tireless efforts during the October sniper attacks.
In making the awards, Chamber president Rick Neel said, "We are recognizing these public safety officials because they put themselves in harm's way for us every day." Police Officer of the Year awards were presented to Master Police Officer Brian Murcek, Franconia District Police Station, and Police Officer First Class Crystal Nicholson, Mount Vernon District Station.
Murcek has been assigned to the Franconia Station for more than 14 years. He is a lead field training officer and has distinguished himself in a wide variety of police assignments over his career, according to Neel.
Nicholson is completing her 10th year with the department and has served the residents of Mount Vernon on cases ranging from rape to larceny, according to the Chamber presentation. She is the Inova Mount Vernon Hospital police liaison and "has strengthened the police department's relationship with the hospital."
NEEL NOTED IN making the presentation, "Officer Nicholson has worked with Capt. Barrett to develop a protocol for that hospital's disaster plans and police response in the event of a major emergency." She also serves as a mentor for underprivileged students in several elementary schools within her core policing area.
Master Technician Willie F. Bailey, an 11-year veteran of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, was the Chamber's choice for Firefighter of the Year. For the past nine years, he has been assigned to the Woodlawn Fire Station.
Battalion Fire Chief John Caussin, who was present for the award, noted, "Willie has distinguished himself as a superlative representative of the department in community-oriented activities throughout the Mount Vernon District."
In his remarks, Neel emphasized, "When Willie was growing up in the Del Ray area of Alexandria, he usually only received one toy for Christmas. This led to his involvement in making sure children in our area receive toys for Christmas. He has organized toy drives for the past five years, starting with 40 kids in a shelter and now helping 750 kids from all over the county."
TOYS ARE distributed to places such as the Mondloch and Carpenter shelters, Gum Springs, Greater Mount Vernon Kids Center and the Sacramento Neighborhood Community Center, according to Neel. "Last Easter, Willie had children in the shelters make Easter baskets, which the children and firefighters from the Richmond Highway area delivered to senior centers," he explained.
In accepting the honor, Bailey, with his 11-year-old son at his side and surrounded by other firefighters from his station, said, "This award is not for me. It is in recognition of what we have done. Without the help from my shift, I wouldn't be able to make it happen."
In special recognition of "all the extra hours and work put in this past fall during the sniper crisis to ensure the safety of our families, our schools and our businesses," Neel and Chamber Chairman of the Board Laurie Blackburn presented Barrett and Morris each with a fruit and wine basket.