The winners at Wednesday’s fourth annual Governor’s Ambassador Awards Ceremony, meant to embody the best of Kentucky’s public employees, were a diverse group with the shared dedication to serve those in need.
Take Patrick Yewell, 51, a Frankfort native who now lives in Lexington. He has worked for almost 19 years in state government and currently runs family juvenile service programs for the court system. Yewell is approaching 27 years total of working in child protection.
He won the award in leadership for his work with foster parents and for speaking to the community about how his own experiences in the foster system as a child shaped his mission.
“I think that it never leaves you,” Yewell said. “I think when you go through that kind of trauma that it stays with you, and I’ve tried to focus the programs and service I do with ‘Don’t forget where you come from.’”
Yewell said he plans to retire in August.
Sean Osborne, on the other hand, is nowhere near retirement or 19 years with the state: he only started seven months ago. Yet Osborne, 32, of Richmond, won the customer service award for coming to the medical attention of three people within a two-month period in his role as an emergency highway patrol operator in Jefferson County.
On May 2, he performed CPR on a man having a heart attack before the ambulance arrived on the scene, all while calming the man’s 74-year-old mother-in-law, who was also in the car. That man expressed his appreciation to the state, as did another driver Osborne aided when he was suffering from a heart attack.
Though everyone in his position is trained in CPR, Osborne said he had more medical experience because he volunteers with the Madison County Rescue Squad. And he was not the only winner Wednesday who did volunteer work.
Jessica Durrett, 32, of Pleasureville, won the community service award for her work starting a church program to provide students from low-income families with meals. The eight-year Department of Corrections employee made menus, monitored inventories of food, shopped for meals and wrote grants all while balancing her full-time job and her family.
She said her motivation was simply: “You don’t want kids to be hungry.”
Durrett was even pregnant when she was visiting churches to persuade them to join the program two years ago.
“That was terrible. I remember I was sick trying to do these presentations – it was awful,” she said. But she succeeded in spreading the program from her church, Pleasureville United Methodist, to six other churches, and she said more churches are involved in other parts of Henry County. The part of the program she oversees now serves about 95 students at five schools.
Three other awards were presented Wednesday. Rebecca Henry of Kentucky State Police won the courage award for stabilizing a man’s condition and probably saving his life after he crashed his truck in front of her home. Danny Keith Banks of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation won the professional achievement award for helping rehabilitate more than 350 people in his time working for the state and strongly advocating change in his department.
The teamwork award went to all 379 employees of the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex for its work in the aftermath of a March tornado that greatly damaged or destroyed the homes of 20 employees.
After the more than 100 nominations in the six award categories – representing 606 employees total – were narrowed down to three finalists each, Gov. Steve Beshear selected the winners, according to a release.
First lady Jane Beshear, who spoke at the event, said all the employees deserved recognition.
“The work you do often goes unnoticed, and sometimes I know you feel unappreciated,” Beshear said. “But without you, where would these people turn for help?”