First responders recognized for efforts during Hurricane Florence

LENOIR COUNTY, NC (WITN) An eastern Carolina county is honoring the tireless efforts of its first responders during Hurricane Florence and over the last year.

Fire departments in Lenoir County performed dozens of water rescues as floodwaters rose in the aftermath of the hurricane.

"We did several water rescues and got people out of flooded homes," said Hugo Volunteer Fire Department Chief Johnny Craft.

The county's annual First Responders Banquet is a time to celebrate each other's hard work, put in every day on the job.

"That's about all they get is a little bit of recognition occasionally and they earn every bit they get," said former Southwood Volunteer Fire Department Chief Clyde Dunham, who helped establish the banquet.

The Lenoir County Sheriff's Office was also invited to the banquet for the first time Wednesday.

"It's a wonderful honor for these officers to be included and to be recognized for the work that they do every day," said Sherri Benson, the wife of a Lenoir County Deputy who has worked with the department for 7 years. He was given the Officer of the Year award at the banquet.

"I love serving the community, making a difference in people's lives and just being there for people," said Deputy Matthew Benson.

It's that commitment that Dunham says they set out to honor every year many years ago.

"We work all our lives to protect our neighbors," said Dunham.

Chief Craft says that appreciation goes a long way and means even more when it comes from the people they serve.

"If we get a thank you that means a lot. Just getting that respect, they know we're out there to help them," said Craft.

Chief Craft says his department and others learned a lot from responding to Hurricane Florence and they are already putting those lessons into practice every day to better serve those in need of help.

All current and retired Lenoir County first responders, along with their families, were invited to the banquet Wednesday.