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Pinellas County gives awards for fire service distinction

First-Responders honored: The Pinellas County Commission announced the recipients of the inaugural Fire Service Professionals of the Year awards at its meeting Sept. 23. The awards honor those who provide exceptional service to the community. Pinellas County 911 Telecommunicator Patrick Lavender was named Dispatcher of the Year. He routinely helps fellow communicators to dispatch units quicker and better identify locations of those in need. Largo Fire Rescue District Chief Keith Daliendo was named Firefighter of the Year for his efforts in training new and experienced firefighters and making process improvements. Palm Harbor Fire Rescue's vehicle extrication team was honored as the Special Operations Team of the Year. The team, stationed along U.S. 19, has a long history of winning national and international awards. The award winners each received a plaque and a cash award from the Pinellas Federal Credit Union.

Educational trip to china: Jared Hischfield, a junior at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, and history teacher Dominique Craft were selected for a study abroad grant to Shanghai, China. The two participated in Concordia International School Shanghai's educational travel course Leadership and Legacy in Modern China. From Sept. 18-27, Hischfield and Craft joined teachers and students in China to study key events, people and trends in modern Chinese history. They also studied the country's history by visiting sites and meeting and discussing history with locals. The program at Concordia International is run in collaboration with National History Day, which encourages students to explore history through research and creative projects. Hirschfield is planning a NHD research project on an aspect of leadership in Chinese history.

Part of longhorn team: Enrique Silva-Santos, an employee at LongHorn Steakhouse in Largo, was presented with the Team Member of the Year Award, the highest honor for local restaurant employees. Silva-Santos has been working for LongHorn for 15 years, and is one of just four other team members out of more than 28,000 employees to receive this award. He is passionate about serving only the best food for his guests and has helped more than 30 co-workers to achieve management positions. He even encouraged two of his brothers to work for LongHorn. Between the three siblings, there is 42 years of dedication to the company.

Funding hope: Eckerd's Raising Hope program received a $5,000 grant from the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation. Raising Hope provides emergency services to abused and neglected children entering the foster care system in the Tampa Bay area. Eckerd has set up Rooms of Hope where children can pick up necessities such as toiletries, clothing, school supplies and some comfort items. Raising Hope is funded entirely through private donations and community grants and relies on these contributions to fill its Rooms of Hope. The Suncoast Credit Union Foundation is sponsored solely by Suncoast Credit Union, with 100 percent of contributed funds going to organizations that help children in the community. In 2013, the foundation provided $1.7 million in funding and grants and has given $9 million since its inception in 1992.

all-star team: Sunstar Paramedics team members Lacy Sims, Alex Pajil, Josh Brumwell and Julia Watson were recognized as HCA Pinellas County All Stars for showing dedication, expertise and providing quality patient care and service to their communities. Paramedic Sims and EMT Pajil received this award for providing the best care possible for a man who suffered a heart attack. The family of the man contacted Sunstar to thank the two for their efforts. Paramedic Brumwell and EMT Watson were honored for going above and beyond their assigned duties to help a woman in distress.