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Pilot Club gives awards

The Pilot Club of Suffolk holds an annual Civic Night where it gives awards to local heroes, but the group had to cancel the event this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pilot International’s motto is “Do More. Care More. Be More.” Whether members contribute through work or volunteerism, all types of services are needed for the community to excel.

“Work, service, dedication and commitment are all characteristics of excellence, and Suffolk is blessed to have numerous individuals and organizations which excel and make our city a better place in which to live,” the press release stated.

The honorees’ awards and accomplishments are summarized below.

Outstanding Teacher of Disabled Children

Patty Yandle

Yandle serves as a leader in the special education department at Northern Shores Elementary School. She arrives early and leaves late in order to help her peers and administrators. She is a hard worker and a team player. More often than not, she puts others before herself. She reviews all IEPs in the school to ensure accuracy and compliance. She is professional at all times and an asset to the team.

Outstanding Teacher’s Aide of Disabled Children

Lesa Drepps

Dreps works in the ASD classroom at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School. She is always willing to go the extra mile and goes above and beyond to meet the needs of all students. She works hard to establish relationships with the students as well as the parents. She is flexible and always willing to lend a helping hand.

Outstanding School Bus Driver for Disabled Children

Karen Brown

Brown builds relationships with her students at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School and works hard to ensure their safety. She always checks on her students one by one and goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Outstanding School Bus Aide for Disabled Children

Kawon Hunter

Hunter works hard assisting students at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School on the bus and ensuring their safety. He always checks on the students when they are absent and goes above and beyond to build relationships.

Police Officer of the Year

Officer Hunter Triplett

Triplett was nominated as Officer of the Year due to his exceptional work ethic. During the course of the year, Officer Triplett has made several drug-related arrests, including possession with intent to distribute arrests, Schedule I and II drugs, as well as marijuana have all been taken off the street. Officer Triplett has seized several firearms during various investigations, including possession of concealed weapons. Officer Triplett has obtained more than 100 warrants throughout the year, has made more than 100 arrests throughout the year, and has written more than 100 summonses throughout the year. These are only a few examples of the exemplary work performed by Officer Triplett during the course of 2019. Officer Triplett exemplifies the mission of the Suffolk Police Department.

Firefighter of the Year

Fire Training Officer Mary C. Riddick

Riddick joined Suffolk Fire & Rescue in 2009 and was assigned to the Fire Training Bureau in May 2017. As a co-coordinator for the Hampton Roads Fire Academy Class 16, she was instrumental in the planning and development of the recruit academy. Her passion and knowledge of the fire service is evident in every task she performs. The pride and ownership that she exemplifies and instills in the recruits will serve them their entire careers.

Riddick also serves as the chairperson of FAST (Firefighter Assistance and Support Team) for Suffolk Fire & Rescue. She is committed to providing certified peer counseling to firefighters, dispatchers, police officers and neighboring localities.

Riddick is currently assigned to the leadership team of Hampton Roads Fire Academy Class 22.

Paramedic of the Year

Lt. Durand O. Coltrane

Coltrane joined Suffolk Fire & Rescue in 2005. He is a well-respected fire officer/paramedic within the organization and demonstrates strong leadership abilities. His knowledge in the advanced life support field and strong patient care skills are an integral part of the success of our department.

Coltrane performs his duties at a very high level with a calm and professional demeanor, even in the most chaotic situations. His confident presence allows him to gain the trust of his patients, reassuring them they are under the best of care.

Coltrane has a passion for coaching, mentoring and teaching his peers to be able to perform at their very best. He is routinely called upon to provide instruction to fire recruits, as he has earned the trust of the fire training staff to provide a strong EMS foundation for our future firefighters.

Coltrane is currently assigned to Battalion 1, Engine 1, Shift A.

Fire Officer of the Year

Battalion Chief William T. Kessinger

Kessinger joined Suffolk Fire & Rescue in 1999. In addition to his responsibilities as a battalion chief, he is the department liaison for the Emergency Communications Center (any and all issues related to the Dispatch Center). He is also the Communications Team Coordinator.

He has been instrumental in setting up automatic aid dispatching with Chesapeake Fire Department. He has spent countless hours training all personnel and making sure the departments are ready when this project goes online.

Kessinger is a highly-respected chief officer and is always ready and willing to help with any projects or offer the skills and knowledge he has gained throughout his career.

Chief Kessinger is assigned to Battalion 1, Shift C.

Volunteer Literacy Tutor of the Year

Setsuko Ericson

Ericson has been a tutor with Suffolk Literacy Council for more than six years. She brings joy, friendliness and excitement to the tutor sessions. She has reached out to some difficult personalities and makes it look easy and fun. As of November 2019, Setsuko has donated 187 hours just in tutor sessions to SLC. She has creatively adapted the curriculum, sometimes struggling to teach concepts that seem basic until you try to put them into simple words that her students need. She has been very diligent to follow up with learners who do not always reciprocate. Setsuko has taken each student under her wing and gently guided them through the skills they needed to get to the next step in their lives. Setsuko plans the students’ lessons and takes on the responsibility of communication. She is great with keeping the learner focused on the lesson while providing relational discussion. Sometimes Setsuko has to be a coach, teacher and a source of information for her students. She is known for adapting to unproductive sessions and for working to deal with cultural miscommunications that can hurt or irritate.

Outstanding Anchor Member of the Year

Gwendolyn Dunn

Dunn is an 11th-grader and has been an Anchor for three years. She is a game design student at the College and Career Academy at Pruden. She is very reliable and always shows up for events and meetings. She got to brown sash in kung fu before stopping last June. She likes writing fan fiction, art, running and video games.

Community Professional of the Year

Amanda B. Smith 

Smith is a Senior Service Coordinator with the Children’s Center’s Early Intervention program.  She works with families whose children age birth to 3 have a delay in their development or are at risk for a delay based on a diagnosis.

Smith uses her master’s degree in counseling to reach families where they are in their process of seeking help, identifying hopes and dreams for their children, and in their worry of what their child may encounter. Words that describe her include compassionate, kind, valued, nonjudgmental, supportive, competent and team leader. She is also bi-vocational as the pastor of Corinth Friends Meeting, Ivor.

A graduate of Lakeland High School, she lives in Suffolk and is a super wife, mom and friend.   She carries the mission of the center with joy — to nurture and educate children and their families. The Children’s Center is grateful Smith found her way there and lives her ministry every day.