First responders honored at annual Elks Lodge picnic |

First responders honored at annual Elks Lodge picnic

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Matthews receives half an ear of corn from Elks Lodge member Lynnette Garrett at the annual first responders picnic at Rotary Park Aug. 17. The Elks Lodge has hosted the event since 2002, at which one member of each of the five local first responder departments is honored.
Alexander Cramer/The Park Record

Rotary Park might have been the safest place in Summit County on Saturday night, as the Park City Elks Lodge hosted its annual appreciation picnic for the area’s first responders.

Around 50 representatives from five area agencies enjoyed brisket, coleslaw and corn on the cob at picnic tables in the park after an awards ceremony that highlighted one member from each department for an exemplary year of service.

The honorees:

• The Summit County Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year is Detective Felicia Sotelo

• The Park City Police Officer of the Year is Sgt. Rick Penrod

• The Park City Fire District’s Firefighter of the Year is Engineer Matt Leri

• The Summit County Utah Highway Patrol Trooper of the Year is Trooper Nick Richins

• The Summit County EMT of the Year is EMT Sam Croft

The first responders are nominated by their peers and then recommended to the Elks Lodge.

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said it’s an honor to be able to recommend someone for the award.

He lauded Sotelo’s work running the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which is an alternative probation program that helps inmates get a job and, aims to reduce the chances of an inmate being sent back to prison after being released. He said she is largely responsible for the program’s extremely high success rate.

Penrod celebrated 20 years of police work this year, as well as 20 years of marriage, according to a submitted bio. He started patrolling for the Park City Police Department in 2009, rose to detective two years later and was promoted to sergeant in 2015. His duties now include administering the body camera system, coordinating the patrol fleet and bike team and coordinating equipment and supplies.

Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt said Leri was recognized because he’s “the best of the best.” Hewitt said in the six years Leri has been with the district, he has demonstrated his commitment to the area and its citizens, serving twice in the camp educating new recruits and pursuing outside training and education. According to his bio, Leri “also has no problem setting a grueling pace for daily physical fitness requirements.”

Richins grew up in Summit County and started working for the Utah Highway Patrol in 2013, according to his bio. The document lauds his work ethic, ability to perform under pressure, dependability and integrity.

“(Richins) goes the extra mile to help the public when they are in distress and he exemplifies the core values of the Highway Patrol,” the document states.

Croft realized his passion for helping others in need while working as a ski patroller, according to his bio. He then pursued and received his EMT certification and has worked with the American Red Cross.

“(The) most rewarding part of being an EMT is the feeling of appreciation he receives from families who (he) is called to assist and seeing patients get better with the care they deserve,” the bio states.

The Elks Lodge has hosted the event since 2002, and Hewitt said he is thankful for the lodge’s graciousness and generosity.

“I can’t say enough about the Elks,” he said. “As fire chief, I always look for ways to recognize the efforts of firefighters, and the police and sheriff feel the same way. It’s nice to have an outside entity…go out of their way every year.”

Lynnette Garrett, sporting homemade Elks Lodge earrings while staffing the corn-on-the-cob station, said she’d made seven dozen ears of corn and 25 pounds of coleslaw. Henefer resident Chris Paskett made the brisket. More than a dozen people in red Elks Lodge shirts volunteered to staff the event, mingling with those in other uniforms, chatting and handing out food and drinks.

Elks Lodge member Craig Cooper helped launch the event initially, he said, to recognize the service of the people who often put themselves in harm’s way for the safety of otherwise.

In years past, there have been a few times when firefighters were called away to work during the picnic, Cooper said.

So Elks Lodge members packed up the food and delivered it to the fire stations, making sure they had a meal waiting for them when they returned.

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