The Gainesville Kiwanis Club awarded its highest honor Tuesday night to a man who has been protecting, serving and influencing local children for the last 11 years.
Even before taking office in 2001, Sheriff Steve Cronic gave his time to organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Hall County Juvenile Court’s Citizen Review Panel and Lakewood Baptist Church.
In the time since becoming sheriff, Cronic has taken an active interest in educating young people about the dangers of drugs, violence and gangs.
He has helped develop several programs for students. His drug education program, called Avoiding Drugs, Violence and Negative Choices Early Program, has provided the model for the statewide CHAMPS program.
“He’s just been very active when it comes to kids because he realizes they are the future and it makes a difference,” said Melissa Bollinger, Cronic’s administrative assistant.
In 2002, Cronic responded to the driving-related deaths of teens by developing a summer program called Teen Safe Driver and an alcohol-related accident program called Fatal Vision.
Eddie Hartness, who presented the award, said more than 2,600 teen drivers have completed the summer program and young drivers are in fewer serious accidents as a result.
Cronic is also very involved with the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Homes and has provided support and donations for many years.
Hartness said Cronic’s interest in youth goes beyond public safety concerns.
Cronic has donated bikes to needy children at Christmas and hosts events like the Sheriff’s Youth Homes Motorcycle Ride to raise money for various charities.
“As Kiwanians, we like to say that no man or woman ever stands taller than when stooping to help a child. By that standard our recipient is a giant,” Hartness said.
Cronic was surprised to receive the award at the Chattahoochee Country Club.
He said it was a great honor to be recognized for something he enjoys doing.
“You deal so much with the negative side of the community that to be able to work with the young people reminds you why you got into this business,” Cronic said.
The Kiwanis Club made a significant change to the award this year by renaming it in honor of the club’s former president and governor of the Georgia District, the late John Jacobs Jr. The award is now called the John W. Jacobs Jr. Youth Service Award.
After Jacobs’ death in November 2011, the club knew it needed to honor his memory in a permanent way that Jacobs would have been proud of.
“John had a heart for children and was especially concerned for their welfare. His dedication and his sharing of his time and resources on their behalf earned him the Kiwanis Youth Service Award,” Hartness said.