At the Greater Naples Chamber, we are honored to have the opportunity each year to recognize First Responders during our Distinguished Public Service Awards. This annual event is a chance for us to come together as a community to celebrate the men and women who work hard to keep Collier County safe.
This year we are doing our part to keep family, friends and neighbors safe. It’s in that spirit that the Chamber, in coordination with members of the Distinguished Public Service Awards selection committee, made the difficult decision not to gather for an awards ceremony in 2020.
COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of our lives. We swapped handshakes for elbow bumps, masked up when visiting the grocery store and postponed large gatherings. We all have worked collectively to slow the spread of COVID-19, doing our part to ensure that our economy can stay open.
Those precautions have helped, but we can’t take it for granted. That is why we decided the best way to honor those working on the front lines was to postpone the Distinguished Public Service Awards until it was safe for us to gather again in person.
Chair Reg Buxton along with the long standing committee are continually in touch with Collier County’s First Responders. No one involved will allow this unprecedented year to go unnoticed.
Established in 2003, the Distinguished Public Service Awards recognize Collier County First Responders—fire safety, emergency services and law enforcement personnel—for their contributions to the well-being of the community.
Past recipients have included Dan Summers, the director of Collier’s Bureau of Emergency Services; Carmine Marceno, who at the time was a corporal in the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and who now serves as the Lee County Sheriff; and Pete DiMaria, then a battalion chief for the City of Naples and who now serves as the city’s Fire Chief.
These men and women have served on the front lines, keeping our businesses, residents and visitors safe. In these challenging times, the definition of a First Responder has shifted.
Law enforcement, fire safety and emergency servicespersonnel aren’t the only ones who pop into our minds when we think about front line workers. Now, we add the doctors and nurses who worked tirelessly to treat patients throughout the pandemic, the teachers who quickly adjusted to online learning to guarantee that closing a physical school didn’t get in the way of educating our youngest residents, and the men and women who volunteered their time at food banks to make sure their neighbors had something to eat when times were tough.
There were also the unsung community heroes that we oftenoverlook. The people who stock the shelves at our local grocery stores, the small businesses that shifted to an online marketplace, and the restaurants that fed and cared for the community.
That’s why, in lieu of an in-person event, we are updating the plaque commemorating Distinguished Public Service Awards recipients to honor “our community heroes who worked tirelessly to keep Collier County residents, visitors and businesses safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It’s a nod to the work we have all done, together, to get through these extraordinary times. We look forward to a time when we can once again gather to celebrate law enforcement officers, .irefighters and emergency service personnel.
Until then, we hope this serves as a small reminder of our community’s ability to come together in times of need.
For more information about the Distinguished Public Service Awards, visit www.NaplesChamber.org/DPSA.