By MARGARET BUTLER
The Rotary Club of Tulsa held its 13th annual Above and Beyond Awards in March several days prior to Mayor Bynum cancelling gatherings of 50 people or more.
This event honors Tulsa’s Firefighter and Police Officer of the Year, acknowledging their outstanding acts of character, commitment and compassion to both their profession and our community.
Fire Chief Ray Driskell and Rotary Club President Becky Fields presented the E. Stanley Hawkins Firefighter of the Year award to Xavier McNac who has served as a firefighter for the Tulsa Fire Department for over 13 years. He serves at Station No. 5 at 18th Street and Boston Avenue, Tulsa’s oldest fire station that’s still in use.
As a young man, he took up boxing and later mixed martial arts which taught him self-confidence, focus and discipline. He and another firefighter co-founded 918 Fully Involved, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the community.
They created Smoke & Guns, a fight event that in just six years has donated over $200,000 to Oklahoma Firefighters Burn Camp and Special Olympics of OK. McNac also volunteers at Ready to Fight, an after school boxing program for at-risk sixth graders through the Tulsa Police Activities League, teaches firefighters and police officers self-defense tactics and trains fighters for Smoke & Guns.
Police Chief Wendell Franklin and Fields presented the Police Officer of the Year award to Lieutenant Jennifer Murphy. She has been an officer for 12 years and served seven years as a volunteer reserve police officer who leads patrol functions from TPD’s north Tulsa Gilcrease Division.
Murphy overcame a chaotic childhood that caused her to miss a lot of school and struggle to graduate. Encouragement from an inspiring teacher gave her determination to change her course in life and become an example for others.
She graduated from the University of Tulsa with a Psychology degree and Certificate in Legal Studies and started her law enforcement career. She established several children’s’ reading programs in high crime neighborhoods where police officers’ interactions are bridging gaps between the community and police.
In cooperation with Tulsa Crime Stoppers, she helped create Book Nooks which are donated refurbished newspaper stands filled with children’s books and placed in low income apartment complexes. She also helped establish a youth mentorship program, TPAL FIT at Parkview Terrace and Apache Manor and volunteers with Joy in the Cause Kids in Crisis backpack program helping TPD provide children’s’ backpacks filled with toys and snacks.
In addition to an Above and Beyond pin, ribbon and trophy, each recipient received $3,000 donated to their favorite charity, plus dinner and an overnight stay at the Osage Hotel & Casino.
Mayor Bynum spoke at the event saying it’s important that people know the stories of individuals in our fire and police departments who are committed to helping our community. He thanked the Rotary Club of Tulsa for annually honoring outstanding public servants. Several city and county government officials, Rotarians, former recipients and other representatives from the Tulsa Fire Department and Tulsa Police Departments were in attendance. Presenting sponsors were AAON, Inc. and the Rotary Club of Tulsa Foundation. More information is available online at tulsarotary.com.