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Thankful for the Selfless

A Glimpse into the World of Those Who Serve so that We Can Celebrate

Article by Michelle W. Parnell

Photography by Randy Pace

Originally published in Evans City Lifestyle

While many of us are gathered together for the holidays, enjoying delicious food and family fun, those who work in emergency services often make unseen sacrifices, including working holidays in order to respond if we should need them.

To say that we are thankful is an understatement, and this month, we are honored to present just a few of our community's devoted public servants who have shared their approach to the holidays. While they and their roles are all unique, they each have a heart to serve the Evans community and their city. So this one is for all of our service families, including our armed forces, veterinarians, nurses and more. We see you, we celebrate you and we thank you. Happy Thanksgiving, and happy holidays.

Jerry Studer, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office

Deputy Sheriff and Field Training Officer Jerry Studer has served Columbia County through law enforcement for 13 years and recently joined the Special Response Team. He also does educational outreach to help children understand the full role of police officers. Jerry’s wife, Alana—who also works for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department—and his daughter, Isabella, share him with the Evans community during holidays.

What encourages you on days you are working rather than home on holidays?

During the holidays, most businesses are closed, and everyone is out of town or with their families. Meanwhile, the community is vulnerable. So, we’re there to provide protection while home and business owners are enjoying the holiday. 

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

My wife is Italian, so sometimes we don’t have a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, but she will make lasagna or some sort of sausage dish—so I would have to say lasagna.

What’s something unique that you get to do at the holidays?

Around Christmas time, we have "A Day with a Deputy" which helps underprivileged children. They are assigned to a deputy to go pick out a toy, have a good experience and get paired with a deputy as a mentor.

Jim Ellis, Gold Cross EMS

With more than 31 years of experience in emergency medical services, Lieutenant/Field Training Officer Jim Ellis started his medic career in the army and has served through Gold Cross EMS since 2006. In addition to serving the community as a paramedic, Jim is also active in his church, teaches CPR/first aid classes and is in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He and his wife, Melani, a NICU nurse, have three daughters: Abby, Lauren and Noel.

What does your team do together when you work on holidays?

A lot of times, families will bring meals to the station. The station itself, especially when we are based out of a firehouse, will have Thanksgiving dinner there. 

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Sweet potato soufflé 

What’s a favorite holiday tradition?

We have a tradition at my house of covering the living room door with wrapping paper so the kids have to smash through the wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

Anthony Lovett and Evan Davis, Columbia County Fire Rescue

Battalion Chief Anthony Lovett began his fire service after high school as a volunteer firefighter with the Martinez Volunteer Fire Department. Thirty-two years later, he’s still serving the public through Columbia County Fire Rescue. In addition to his fire service, Anthony is an active member of Wesley United Methodist Church and is dedicated to working for drug-free communities through Columbia County Connections. He and his wife, Deborah, have been married for 23 years and have two daughters, Molly and Erin.

Evans native Lieutenant Evan Davis has served for 14 years through Columbia County Fire Rescue. He’s been married for seven years to his wife, Agatha, and has two children, Joanna and Evan, Jr. As an active member at Warren Grovetown, Evan is on the music worship team, co-leads a community group with his wife and strives to go on an international mission trip every other year. He’s also on the board of Fire-K Five-K, which helps raise cancer awareness and support firefighting families as they battle cancer.

What encourages you on those holidays you are working rather than home with family?

Anthony: Our fire department shifts are really our second family, and our crew members know each other’s families. When our shifts end up working on a holiday, we have our families up at the station. For the most part, when my children were younger, they looked forward to that afternoon coming on up to the fire station to be with all the other firemen’s kids that they knew from other family events. 

Evan: In this line of work, when you are absent from home, especially at the holidays, having a good understanding with your spouse is vital. My wife, Agatha, has fully supported my career. The commitment to the job is more than a paycheck; it’s a commitment to the community. Something that the community has to understand is that behind every firefighter is a family making that person who they are.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Anthony: Fried turkey and macaroni and cheese

Evan: My mom’s macaroni and cheese

What’s a favorite holiday tradition? 

Anthony: My favorite thing to do on Thanksgiving is to deep fry a turkey—safely of course!

Evan: At Christmas time, there are two special things to me: going to get a live Christmas tree and reading the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke with my children.

Rabii Madi, Augusta University Health

Dr. Rabii Madi is the director of urologic oncology and robotic surgery and a professor of urology at Augusta University. He has been in practice for 13 years, eight of which have been in the Augusta area. In addition to his responsibilities at the college and hospital, Dr. Madi serves the community through cancer education seminars and screenings. He and his wife, Irina, have been married for 20 years and have two sons, Bilal and Nijad, and one daughter, Safa.

What gives you encouragement on those days when you are working rather than home for a holiday?

I personally don’t mind taking some holidays and being off on other holidays. Someone has to be there in order to serve our patients. Doctors and nurses who are working in the hospital really do their best to give the best care. What gives us the incentive to work hard and to be on-call and to be doing surgery on weekends or on holidays is really our dedication and feeling that this is what we want to do. Nothing is more rewarding than appreciation from our patients. When I do big surgery and I see the patient doing well and recovering and being cancer-free, that makes my day. That’s really what motivates me to keep doing what I do. 

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

I personally like turkey–Thanksgiving is really the only time I eat it. My wife is Russian, so she prefers goose or duck, so we typically have a big goose on the dinner table.  

What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

For me and my family, New Year’s is the big holiday. Traditionally, I prefer to spend it at home with my family and friends with their families. We have a nice dinner and hang out together. With me being Lebanese in origin and my wife being Russian, we try to prepare some mix of Russian and Lebanese dishes.