DENHAM SPRINGS – Racking up more than 150 arrests in a year might be expected but getting bit (twice) by dogs or driving mules and a wagon usually are not on first responders’ to-do lists.
But those were just three examples of what helped two law enforcement officers and a fire chief receive the James Foster Service Above Self Awards from the Rotary Club of Livingston Parish on Friday, June 14.
Denham Springs police Officer Jonathan Pizzolato, Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Cody Jarreau, and Denham Springs Fire Chief Melvin Wheat received the awards at the Rotary Club meeting.
“We wanted an annual recognition for those, not Rotarians, who exemplify our motto, ‘Service Above Self,’ ’’ said Andy Duckworth, president of the Rotary Club.
“Some people say they volunteered to do these dangerous jobs,” Duckworth said of police officers and firefighters, “and they get paid for it.
“They get paid for it but not nearly enough.
“In my family, we’re grateful for their service and pray for you to get home safely,” Duckworth told the recipients their families and co-workers. “We’re grateful for each and every one of you.”
Rotarian Kay Landry said seven years ago, “We decided to give back to first responders and the Service Above Self Award began.”
Denham Springs police Officer James Foster was the first recipient, she said, and after Foster died in an on-duty motorcycle crash, the award was named in his memory.
“You guys, day in and day out, go out in community and exemplify service above self,” Landry said. “This is our way to give back to you guys and say thank you.”
Before the awards presentation, Duckworth recounted the founding of Rotary by five men in Chicago, and its growth into an international organization of 1.25 million members in 60 nations.
In the past year, the local club has been involved in a number of public-service events, Duckworth said.
The club recently held its 2nd Annual Super Hero Fun Run, where runners could pay the entry fee by donating a pair of shoes given to the Livingston Parish school system.
School counselors can draw shoes from the “shoe vault” for students needing footwear, Duckworth said.
The nonprofit group Soles4Souls learned of the club’s effort and pledged 2,000 pairs of shoes, which will be given in four blocks of 500 pairs, he said.
Other projects have included donating 40 mattresses to flood victims, providing Thanksgiving dinners, sorting donations and building shelves for the Foster Village, cleaning the First Baptist Church cemetery, helping with Albany’s community park and helping the Walker Police Department’s school uniform drive.
Deputy Cody Jarreau
Jarreau completed the Capital Area Regional Training Academy in 2013. He began in uniform patrol and moved to criminal patrol. He is a member of the marine division during the summer and recently earned a canine partner, Ivar.
“Deputy Jarreau has excelled in his career as he has made his way to his current position taking on every task assigned to him without question,” according to his nomination form.
“Prior to receiving his K-9, Jarreau was bitten by another K-9 within the department but was not detoured from trusting and building a bond with his own K-9.
“Shortly after receiving his K-9, he was bitten again during training, yet still remained faithful to Ivar,” the nomination said.
“Deputy Jarreau is a role model to his co-workers simply from the drive he has in his day-to-day work. The arrest stats he carries are also admired (by) co-workers.”
During the Great Flood of 2016, “Deputy Jarreau was one of many rescuing people and animal from homes and cares. These consisted of 24-hour (days) and little to no food.”
Fire Chief Melvin Wheat
Wheat, who became fire chief in 2009, began the Denham Springs Fire Department from 1976-79 then worked for the state Fire Marshal’s Office.
He returned to Denham Springs in 1996 working as a driver, firefighter and captain.
“Chief Wheat was very active in the rescue and recovery efforts of the Great Flood of 2016,” according to his nomination form. “He personally went to flooded homes surrounded by rampaging water to rescue homeowners (who) were trapped in their homes.
“He slept on floors at local stores, are sparingly and did not stop until all people and animals had been brought to safety.”
Wheat “works hard to ensure the firemen receive training that will give them the ability to respond to real-life situations.”
Wheat also assists Denham Springs Main Street with museum exhibits.
“He drives his mules and wagon at Christmas in the Village events and he helps puts lights upon buildings in the Antique Village so the children of our community and visitors enjoy the month-long free event,” the nomination said.
Officer Jonathan Pizzolato
Pizzolato joined the Denham Springs Police Department in October 2017.
His previous law enforcement experience was as a field officer for the Louisiana Department of Corrections in 2014-15 and West Baton Rouge Parish deputy in 2015-17.
In 2018, Pizzolato made 158 arrests, a total of 94 for drug-related offenses, seizing a substantial amount of illegal narcotics.
“Officer Jonathan Pizzolato has been around law enforcement most of his life; he has been open and willing to gain knowledge and experience taught to hm by his senior officers,” wrote Police Chief Shannon Womack in his nomination form.
“His dependable and hard-working nature has gained him the admiration and respect of his peers.
Pizzolato attended the Capital Area Regional Training Academy’s Certified Basic Training Course and received his Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) certificate in 2016.