ALBANY, Ga. -- It wasn't the applause that lured an Albany volunteer into offering his time and effort to the public good for free, but he had a turn in the spotlight Tuesday in Forsyth anyway.
The Emergency Management Association of Georgia honored Charles "Chuck" Mitchell as its Volunteer/Citizen of the Year at its 54th annual membership meeting.
"I was totally surprised and honored," Mitchell said. "It is really something to be chosen from volunteers in the whole state."
As part of the nomination for the award, Albany Fire Department Chief James Carswell wrote, "Charles 'Chuck' Mitchell is a man of many talents and a boundless drive to help his fellow man."
Carswell went on to list seven organizations that Mitchell works with as a volunteer including as commander of the Albany-Dougherty Search & Rescue Team and chairman of the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
Mitchell leads other teams of volunteers and spearheads efforts to recruit the next generation of volunteers, Carswell said.
When he saw that the Dougherty County Commission was going to auction off a surplus ambulance, he knew the search and rescue team could put the ambulance to good use.
"The commission instead donated the ambulance to the search and rescue team," Carswell said. "The ambulance now serves as a rescue, medical equipment supply truck with trained personnel."
Volunteers who work with Mitchell say he possesses a wide variety of skills, including first aid, CPR, victim search and rescue training, underwater diving skills and crash victim extrication know-how.
Mitchell has been a volunteer for about 27 years. He said he got started because as a new father he wanted to learn first aid in case his son got a cut or was injured.
Once he learned first aid, volunteering seemed to flow naturally as his desire to help people grew. Another volunteer at the time, Bruce Pate, got him more involved through his interests in scuba diving and other activities.
"I started helping out at events, and it felt good," Mitchell said. "Then I started helping more people, and it felt good to make a contribution rather than just sit on the sidelines."