Most first responders truly go above and beyond in the line of duty to keep the community safe and sometimes even any civilian can make a difference.

Erie County Executive Brenton Davis said he hopes to begin honoring local first and second responders with an annual distinguished service awards program.

An annual county-wide recognition program is starting as Erie County looks to honor community members whose actions or achievements in public service stand out as extraordinary.

Those to be acknowledged are first responders, second responders and private citizens.

County Executive Brenton Davis announced this initiative on Monday, Jan. 30 and said that it’s important to tell stories of local heroes.

“There are so many stories that go untold and we always want to make sure that one, we’re able to appropriately give thanks and even in memorium, give thanks to the family members of those individuals that served our community with distinguished service maybe even many years ago,” said Davis.

Awards are broken down into seven categories: law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, second responders, civilians 18 and older, civilians 18 and under and in memoriam.

Nominations for the award begin on Feb. 1 and run through March 17 when applications will be reviewed by a board of county officials. That panel is comprised of people from veterans affairs, local police and fire chiefs and the Erie County prison.

Brian Shank, Erie County Council chairman and a volunteer firefighter, said that it takes just a small gesture to really help. Last week, the Erie County Council acknowledged one man that made that effort to help warm first responders facing the extreme cold.

“We’ve been on fires when we’ve been short-handed. People pick up a hose, or help carry a hose because those hoses are heavy, especially when they have a lot of water in them,” said Shank. “And like we just talked about James Sharples. What did he do? He just opened up his garage door and turned on a torpedo heater. He probably saved someone’s ear that night.”

If you or someone you know would like to apply for a distinguished service award, you can find the application online.