The Sgt. Charles A. Fricke Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 805 in O’Fallon honors three public servants — from O’Fallon’s police, fire and EMS — annually during its First Responders Awards Banquet.
This year’s banquet was Dec. 14. Firefighter Ryan McWhorter, emergency medical technician Rick Palmer and police officer Clay Hoff were the honorees.
The VFW gives a lot back to the community, and this awards banquet is just a fraction of that, said O’Fallon Fire Chief Brent Saunders.
“We definitely appreciate the VFW honoring first responders, and this isn’t just a one time support; they do it all year long and it definitely shows the support,” Saunders said.
Since 2008, Ryan McWhorter has been putting out fires and keeping people safe, according to Chief Saunders. The VFW honored McWhorter with its National Firefighters Public Servant Citation.
“He has been a consistent responder over the years that we depend on. He also helps with driver’s training and other aspects for new, incoming firefighters,” Saunders said.
Taking the initiative a step further, McWhorter put his technical abilities to use to help streamline recording and tracking of service calls by designing and building a computer program, Saunders said.
“We didn’t even ask him to do it. He approached us with the concept and ran with it,” Saunders said.
Before the program was created, firefighters weren’t able to run reports on percentages of how many calls they responded to in a given period of time, but now they can and more, according to the chief.
“Since we have four stations and we have people responding to the various stations, our main station tracks it, but it’s always been done manually. And now we can run percentages, pay and everything else,” Saunders said.
But that’s just the beginning, according to Saunders, who said that McWhorter’s digital roll call program also has built in security protocols and features to help make reporting easier.
“It opened the door to a lot of other tracking abilities, and it changes how everyone at the fire department does everything in that aspect,” Saunders said.
Before, it took four or five people to enter information and track data reports, but now that number has been cut in half.
“He’s been working on it all year, and we’ve been testing it for about last four months and plan to roll it our officially after the first of the year,” Saunders added.
Richard Palmer has been with O’Fallon-Shiloh Emergency Medical Services department since 2014. He is this year’s recipient of the VFW’s Emergency Medical Technician Public Servant Citation Award.
Palmer is “a positive role model for all our employees,” according to Jeremy Sherman, EMS supervisor.
“Rick always begins his shift early, ensuring all units are washed and ready to respond,” Sherman said.
Demonstrating exemplary patient care along with thorough report writing, Palmer “initiates daily chores and activities and continuously demonstrates a solid work ethic while maintaining a positive attitude,” Sherman said.
Training in pre-hospital medicine and all the late concepts, Palmer has a “genuine willingness to help the department move forward,” Sherman said.
An example of this was Palmer’s training on Child Passenger Safety and Quick Response Vehicle programs. By doing this, he can now train others to be obtain certification at the Public Safety building.
Palmer also coordinates car seat check up events, Sherman said.
Working with the First Baptist Church in O’Fallon and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Sherman said, Palmer also has helped establish an event that empowered the parents to be involved in their children’s safety.
“I look forward to watching Rick grow with our department as he continues to uphold our mission,” Sherman said.
With over 50 self-initiated arrests since joining in January 2014, Clay Hoff was recognized with the VFW National Law Enforcement Public Servant Citation.
This isn’t the first time Hoff has been honored for his abilities and dedication to the force.
Last year, Hoff won the O’Fallon Police Officer of the Year award for his “unwavering initiative, volunteerism, and overall dedication to the mission to the police department,” O’Fallon Police Chief Eric Van Hook said.
He also was awarded a certificate of achievement from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorist.
“To this day, officer Hoff displays the characteristics we strive to develop in every O’Fallon police officer. (He) has several notable accomplishments,” Van Hook said.
As a field training officer through the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, Hoff serves as the leader.
Van Hook said Hoff was the choice for this year’s honor, “due to his drive, multitasking skills, decision-making abilities and complete understanding of philosophy of the department.”
Hoff volunteers for events like Coffee with a Cop, Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Big Brothers/Big Sisters bowling events, Cops and Kids Holiday event and Backstoppers too.
Additionally, he serves on the OPD’s recruitment team, conducted shift trainings on defensive driving and was an asset in the conversion of a new records management system.
Officer Hoff has been described by both peers and citizens as, “top of the line,” “a credit to his profession,” and a “great professional,” Van Hook said.