After receiving Rotary's "Service Above Self" award, Chattanooga Police Officer, Brandon Watson, chose Be The Change Youth Initiative to receive a monetary donation from the Rotary Club.

Officer Watson said he had no idea his colleagues were going to nominate him for the award.

"I do this for them," Watson said. "I joined the police department late in life, at 37 years old, with the intent of taking care of law enforcement, and the community."

Officer Watson is a part of CPD’s Crisis Co-Response unit.

"I have a licensed clinical social worker that rides with me on shift, and we respond to mental health and substance abuse crisis calls in the city," Watson said.

When he received the award from the Rotary club, he was asked to choose a nonprofit to give a donation to. He chose Be The Change Youth Initiative which, like officer Watson, is centered around mental health.

"The thing that got me about that particular nonprofit is: They empower the youth to break stigmas and give them the tools needed to be leaders in their community," Watson said.

Sydney Guerrette, founder of Be The Change Youth Initiative, said they are incredibly humbled to be chosen by Officer Watson to receive the donation.

"We never take for granted the amount of people that will either call us or reach out and say, 'we really appreciate your work and want to support you in any way that we can,'" Guerrette said. "What's amazing is the fact that it's coming from people that we would least expect- people that we don't know- saying these things, so it's just incredibly inspiring."

Both Watson and Guerrette said their missions align.

"Their mission, and their passion is in line with what we're doing," Watson said.

"They understand the importance of humanity and treat people with kindness and compassion," Guerrette said. "When you meet people in this field that really get behind that mission it's amazing because we're all recognizing that this is important work."

In their own ways, both work towards a better community and hope to break the stigma associated with mental health.

"When you don't have a stigma, you have a greater opening for compassion and empathy for the human being," Watson said.

"When we start bridging that gap, and we start saying, 'how do we extend empathy and cultivate empathy by listening to people's stories?' I believe that can be a massive part in learning to destigmatize mental health," Guerrette said.

Guerrette said they plan to put the money towards their Empower Youth Initiative.

Also at the Rotary meeting, The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office’s Training Sergeant, Jeremy Durham, received the Service Above Self award. He selected Erlanger Hospital to be his charity of choice for the monetary donation.

Sheriff Austin Garret said, "Sergeant Durham’s values and selflessness embodies the true definition of a servant leader. His dedication, service and commitment to his family, the HCSO, and the citizens to which he serves exemplifies the Rotary’s motto of 'Service Above Self.'"

Learn more about how Sgt. Durham is being recognized by visiting the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office website.


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