Eight recipients from five agencies honored by church on Servant Leader Sunday

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) Investigator Molly Nations and RCSD Corporal Keegan Gilbert both received SERVANT LEADERSHIP AWARDs from Columbia’s Eastminster Presbyterian Church following a special awards luncheon, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In addition to RCSD, first-responders from four other Midlands-area agencies were honored, including the Columbia Police Department (with two police-officer recipients), the Forest Acres Police Department (one police-officer recipient), the Columbia-Richland Fire Department (one firefighter recipient), and Richland County Emergency Services (two emergency medical technician recipients).

According to a letter sent to each agency in July from Rev. Brian Marsh, associate pastor at Eastminster, the church “desires to do more to acknowledge and affirm front-line responders who go above and beyond in the areas of character, compassion, and community building.”

Both Nations and Gilbert are 10-year veterans of RCSD, and both have been previously decorated with lofty departmental awards: Nations is a recipient of the Sheriff’s Merit Award for Criminal Investigations, and Gilbert is a recipient of the Sheriff’s Award for Excellence and the Sheriff’s Medal of Valor.

Eastminster Presbyterian presented Nations, Gilbert, and the other six recipients with personally engraved plaques and a check each for $1,000.

“As one of our ‘Kingdom Goals,’ Eastminster Presbyterian Church is in the second year of honoring nominated servant leaders from five local first-responder agencies for their selfless service and protection of our community,” said Jane Shuler, chair of Eastminster’s first-responder servant leader awards committee. “This is one of the ways in which we express how grateful we are for their service.”

Dr. Brad Smith, Eastminster’s senior pastor, agrees.

“On this Servant Leader Sunday, we recognize these five agencies without which our community would not be a community,” Smith said.

Various members of the church presented each award to each recipient and recognized family members present. Investigator Nations received her award from Betty Meadows, and Cpl. Gilbert received his award in absentia from Andy Cameron, who presented the award to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott who accepted the award on behalf of Gilbert.

“We thank you all for this,” said Sheriff Lott. “We thank you for your prayers and we thank you for what you did for us last year. God bless all of you.”

Nations was joined by her family and several senior RCSD officers, including Chief Deputy Wash James, Deputy Chief Stan Smith, and Lt. Col. Kelvin Ashe.

– Pictured (L-R) are Chief Stan Smith, RCSD’s Criminal Investigations Division chief; Investigator Molly Nations, award recipient; and Sheriff Leon Lott.

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