A veteran Mount Airy police officer credited with making a difference in the community through his work received the Citizen of the Year award Tuesday from the local Elks Lodge.
Lt. Jim Armbrister was presented with the honor during a ceremony in the lobby of the Mount Airy police station attended by fellow officers and officials of Mount Airy Elks Lodge 2061.
“There’s no better person to give this award to than Jim Armbrister,” said Freddy Badgett, exalted ruler of the lodge, citing Armbrister’s work with children as a key reason.
The local unit of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a fraternal and social club with nearly 1 million members in the U.S., bestows awards each year, including ones highlighting the service of lodge members.
Its Citizen of the Year honor recognizes someone who has done much to help the community, with that recipient not required to be an Elks member. However, in this case Armbrister has been associated with that organization for 20 years.
“This means a lot to me,” Armbrister said after receiving the award from Badgett and Mark Alderman, Elks Lodge secretary.
Armbrister has been a member of the Mount Airy Police Department for nearly 18 years. He began as a dispatcher in its communications segment and later became a patrol officer. Armbrister also was the first city policeman to work the streets on a bicycle and later became Mount Airy’s first community police officer.
That role has allowed Armbrister to work directly with residents and community groups on various safety campaigns, efforts to reduce break-ins and other crimes and especially drug-awareness programs targeting children.
Armbrister has achieved a special rapport with youths that has allowed serious messages about drugs and other dangers to sink in when they possibly wouldn’t otherwise, Elks Lodge officials indicated.
“He’s just a friend to them — and they appreciate having him around,” Badgett said.
It was pointed out Tuesday that much of Armbrister’s work with the Police Department mirrors an Elks Lodge mission of helping local youths in various ways, including drug-awareness. The organization has provided coloring books for students in the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program as well as sponsored an annual Hoop Shoot competition, supported scouting and promoted scholarships.
“He’s right there with us,” Badgett said of Armbrister.
“We’ve always found common ground,” Armbrister agreed regarding the Elks Lodge’s support of police youth programs through campaigns such as the coloring books. “It influences a lot of young people’s lives.”
Police Chief Dale Watson, who attended Tuesday’s award presentation, said Armbrister has set a good example for others through his service.
“He’s raised the bar for everybody else to follow,” Badgett said in describing Armbrister as going above and beyond the call of duty to help the community in his police work.
The Elks Lodge held its annual awards ceremony Saturday night, which Armbrister could not attend due to battling an illness. That led to alternate plans in which the honor was presented to him Tuesday.
A 53-year-old organization, the Mount Airy Elks Lodge has about 230 members. Its overall mission includes preserving the cherished institutions, traditions and values of the community and constantly seeking ways to foster their well-being. In addition to youth programs, it supports hospice, Red Cross, food pantry, veterans, breast-cancer awareness and other efforts, including the Elks Christmas for the needy.
Along with the Citizen of the Year honor presented to Armbrister Tuesday, the Elks Lodge’s annual recognitions included outstanding service awards given Saturday to members Mark Barr and Cody Rippey and another for Elk of the Year to Marty Dunbar. Alderman, the lodge secretary, was named Officer of the Year.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.