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Local First Responders to be Recognized on Hometown Heroes Day

Hometown Heroes, Inc. celebrated its ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce in November of 2022. Photo courtesy of Hometown Heroes.

By Harley Nefe

Ashe County Hometown Heroes, Inc. has been preparing for their second annual event supporting and honoring local first responders of law enforcement, fire, and medic.

The nonprofit began in September 2020 after Ashe County resident Renee Collins said she saw a need to recognize the personnel who keep the community safe. 

“That was a really tough year for a lot of people, and that was the year there was a lot of rioting in some of the major cities,” Collins reflected. “It was also the summer where a lot of police officers were being vilified for the mistake of a couple of officers. A lot of officers were being attacked; some were killed.”

“I started thinking to myself, ‘It’s really sad that people are thinking that all officers are this way,’” Collins shared. “They really need to be appreciated.”

These thoughts led to Collins reaching out to the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office to speak to some of the personnel. 

“I found out that they really didn’t have a day here in Ashe County that shows appreciation towards them or any first responders,” Collins said. “That’s what sparked the idea for the nonprofit. I wanted to do something for them.”

Collins went to Facebook to gauge community interest in the potential organization, and she was happy to see responses and feedback regarding forming a committee.

Planning began for the inaugural event – Ashe County Hometown Heroes Day – in 2021, and a year later, the first celebration was deemed a success.

“We had about 150-200 people attend,” nonprofit founder Collins recalled. “More than half of those were first responders, and that’s primarily who it’s for.” 

The second annual Hometown Heroes Day will be held on Saturday, September 23, 2023 at the Ashe County High School Gymnasium beginning at 11 a.m.

“It’s an event where the public can show their appreciation towards all the first responders in the county – specifically law enforcement, firefighters, and EMT,” Collins described.

The day will be filled with a variety of festivities including food trucks, kids’ activities, a first responders’ cornhole tournament, a silent auction, an awards ceremony, and more. 

“We give away four awards – Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Firefighter of the Year, EMT of the Year, and an overall Hometown Hero of the Year,” Collins explained. 

The different departments and members of the community can nominate individuals for these awards, and then the committee reviews and selects the winners. 

There are prizes for the winners of the awards as well as the cornhole tournament.

“All first responders that attend the event – we give them money towards getting lunch and dessert, so they all get fed,” Collins said. “We have reached out to local restaurants, who are giving us coupons or vouchers. We put these in envelopes to hand out so first responders can use them with their families.” 

As a community effort, Hometown Heroes is made up entirely of volunteers. The organization welcomes new members who would like to get involved. They are encouraged to contact Renee Collins by phone at 336-620-4449 or by email at asheheroes@gmail.com. For more information about the nonprofit or event, please visit https://ashehometownheroes.org/.