Theresa Maddox was filing an incident report for Finney County EMS in March when members of the Garden City Fire Department’s Honor Guard walked into the office and told her the news: She had been chosen unanimously as the recipient of this year’s Keeper of the Flame Award, the second person to ever receive it.
“I went back to my bedroom and cried,” Maddox said. “I don’t have financial status or status in this community. I’m just somebody that loves what Garden City has done for me and my family.”
Maddox moved to Garden City with her husband and three kids the day after Christmas in 1986 while they were still making payments on a house in Plainville.
With help from the local church community, she was able to get a firm footing in Garden City and began working for USD 457 in 1988 as a custodian at Alta Brown Elementary School, until she transferred to Finney County EMS in 2000.
She said the compassion she witnessed at Alta Brown and elsewhere in Garden City inspired her to give back.
“This community has just influenced me in a big way that they are so giving,” Maddox said, explaining that everyone works together to make Garden City a great place to visit, “but to me it’s even a better place to call home.”
Through her work as a paramedic, Maddox enjoys making a positive difference in her patients’ lives.
“You want to leave them not only in a better state physically but emotionally,” she said. “Some of our patients, they need those pick-me-ups. They need to know that somebody is there for them that cares about them. In our field, you see a lot of things you would not imagine even exist.”
Honor Guard firefighters Adam Patterson, Hunter Carson and Vice Commander Jeremy Kemp cited their professional encounters with Maddox in the field as just part of the reason she was chosen for the award.
“You can tell whenever you work with her that she is very caring, she’s very professional and she wants to definitely provide the highest level of care for each one of her patients,” Kemp said.
He said Maddox often brings treats to first responders on holidays to let them know that they’re cared for even when they’re away from their families.
When firefighter Ronnie Peek died during a mandatory air management training session with other firefighters in 2015, Maddox was “one of the first people there and just kind of stuck with it to offer condolences and support,” Carson said.
Carson said she is one of the few people that always means what she says, and Kemp described her as a caring “presence.”
“If somebody needs something, she’s going to give you the shirt off her back right away if that helps you out that day,” Patterson said.
During the banquet honoring Maddox on Saturday, speakers included Pastor Scott Rosen of Bible Christian Church, Pastor Bob Bates of Church of the Brethren, and Finney County EMS Director Skylar Swords.
Carson said they knew after hearing testimonials by the speakers that they had made the right decision choosing Maddox for the award.
“Whether she got off of a 48-hour shift, a 24-hour shift or a 12-hour shift at EMS, she would be right there at church scrubbing the floors and cleaning up and really doing a lot of things around those facilities and those places that no one else really wanted to do,” Kemp said.
“She exemplifies so much of what we try to embody as first responders. It’s inspiring. It really is. It’s motivational for firemen, for cops, for everybody.”
Tickets to the event sold out, and all proceeds will benefit the Honor Guard to fund training attendance, equipment purchase and maintenance, travel expenses for memorial visitations throughout the state, and a visit to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Md.
The Honor Guard is a 10-member volunteer auxiliary of the fire department. Members attend funerals and memorial services, and everything they do is self-funded. In 2017, the Honor Guard participated in the Kansas Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial in Wichita, guarded three fire service funerals in three counties, marched in three parades and presented America’s colors at six events.
“The beauty of this award is it is flexible,” Kemp said. “It is something you can apply to every walk of life. It’s somebody that exemplifies one or many cornerstones of the fire service in their everyday life: honor, courage, selfless service, dedication and compassion.”
Contact Mark Minton at firstname.lastname@example.org.