Honoring community heroes

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Rising fifth-grader Autumn Belle Hatcher recounted a story about a scared girl whose house caught ablaze.

This girl, and her home, was saved thanks to the bravery of several firefighters who put out the fire before there was any serious damage.

“She was upset and worried about her home, and pets and stuff,” Autumn said. “Her home was spared thanks to the efforts of several of the firemen in the department.”

Joe Davis with Charlotte Primary Care interviewed and held a presentation on Charlotte County
resident James Gregory with Virginia State Police during a celebration honoring community

That scared girl was Autumn, her mother revealed.

Apryl Hatcher, who also works with Charlotte Primary Care (CPC), chose to interview Phenix Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) with her daughter due to the personal encounter they had with the department.

“It could have just been really bad,” Apryl said about the home fire.

Dennis Haley, captain with Phenix VFD, said he was astonished at Autumn’s gratitude after the fire. More so that Autumn, during the presentation, ran into his arms.

“I pulled up on scene,” Haley, captain on the department for nine years, said, recounting the story. “This young lady with her mother was looking visibly distraught, smoke rolling out the house, front and back. This young lady run up to me, grabbed me by the leg, and she said ‘Mister, there’s 12 in there.’”

Haley was initially worried that there were 12 people in the house. Autumn later revealed she had 12 baby chickens.

Apryl said the baby chickens were saved.

“I have never come across a more appreciative young lady,” Haley said. “When this was all over with, she went around and hugged each individual firefighter, not only just from Phenix.”

Haley also serves on the Charlotte County Rescue Squad.

It isn’t often that someone who works behind the scenes, like Haley, receives a warm welcome or spontaneous embraces. The CPC’s event honoring community heroes sought to change this, giving nurses and doctors with the CPC an opportunity to present their findings on Area 23 of Virginia State Police, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, 10 fire stations and emergency rescue squads that serve Charlotte County, Charlotte County Meals on Wheels and Crossroads Service Board.

Autumn said that Phenix VFD has 20 active members, was founded 55 years ago, serving the Town of Phenix and surrounding areas. The department receives approximately 80 calls each year.

Haley’s greatest joy is getting the opportunity to help his community. The greatest challenge is preparing physically and mentally for what can often be a demanding line of work.

For this presentation, CPC employees had to interview a representative of these community organizations and ask them the greatest joys and challenges working in their organization, as well as compile data about when the organization was founded and how many people it serves.

During Monday’s celebration, CPC employees gave community heroes a free lunch. In turn, area rescue squads and fire departments gave participants the chance to explore a firetruck and ambulance.

The event was based on CPC’s annual celebration of National Health Services Week, from Aug. 12-18, which seeks to recognize the impact that community health centers like CPC have in the region and across the United States. CPC is one of 17 health centers in the Central Virginia Health Services Inc. network that makes up a network of community health centers across the United States. Community health centers around the U.S. provide care to more than 27 million people in 10,400 rural and urban communities.

CPC representatives for the past several years, however, have used the opportunity to not so much bring recognition to their own organization, but instead honor members of the community who have made a difference.

CPC representative Mitzi Palmer said during Monday’s presentation and luncheon that

“Everyone in this room that is on the program are heroes,” Palmer said.