By BRIAN GRAVES
"God has watched over us."That was the year-end message to the employees of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office from Sheriff Eric Watson as they gathered for their annual Christmas dinner held at the …
"God has watched over us."
That was the year-end message to the employees of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office from Sheriff Eric Watson as they gathered for their annual Christmas dinner held at the Omega International Center.
"The one thing I can say about this year is that everyone went home after work," Watson said. "There are not many departments around the country that can say that."
The evening's entertainment was provided by the Lake Forest Revolution Show Choir which charmed the crowd with their professional performances of several of the Christmas standards.
Children of BCSO employees were invited to the stage to sing a few songs as a way to get Santa Claus to pay a visit.
Even the sheriff and Chief Deputy Brian Smith joined the kids to sing and greeted Santa as he entered the building and gave treats to the children.
Watson presented many of the BCSO staff with various awards recognizing achievements and length of service.
The top four awards of the night rounded out the evening.
The "Making A Difference Award" was presented to Chaplain Rick Ellis.
"We can't always do everything we want as law enforcement officers. We always need others that are willing to help us for the good of our community," Watson said. "There are always those people who come to us and ask, 'What can we do to help the sheriff's office? What can we do to help the people that you help?'"
Watson said Ellis "spends endless hours" at the department assisting in many ways.
"I know of employees that he has given money to because they told me," the sheriff said. "People like Rick Ellis stand in the gap and helps."
Watson added it was Ellis and people who work with him who spent time and money building the department's Christmas float this year, which also helped to raise almost $6,000 for the Empty Stocking Fund.
Ellis said the honor was an unexpected one.
"I am a minister of the Gospel and the word 'minister' in the Greek means 'to serve,'" Ellis said. "I stand here today humbled at your service. I appreciate so much what you do and I appreciate the opportunity to serve in this aspect. If you want to serve Christ, you serve your fellow man."
Watson also acknowledged the help of local businessman Lynn Jones who "has helped give 40 turkeys and family meals to a lot of families we serve in the community."
Chief Deputy Bryan Smith presented the Chief's Excellence Award to department veteran Allen Walsh, who is now the superintendent of the workhouse which bears Smith's name.
Smith said Walsh was "heavily involved in the planning, construction and creation of the policies" for the new facility.
Watson presented the Supervisor of the Year Award to Sgt. Mario Santos saying, "The professionalism and efficiency with which he carries out his everyday duties is unsurpassed."
Watson presented the Sheriff's Career Excellence Award to Lt. Bob Hancock, who will be retiring from the department next year.
"He has been very instrumental in ensuring people and their neighborhoods remain safe places by continuing to organize various neighborhood watch programs," Watson said.
Hancock waxed eloquent in his acceptance of the award, speaking to the next generation of law enforcement officers.
"Just a word from an old gray-hair," Hancock said. "Young deputies, cherish this time of your youth when you are turned loose on the streets and highways of Bradley County to help enforce the laws. Just remember we need that exhibit of a service heart when administering the justice and the law here in Bradley County."
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