Local businessman honored with Jefferson Award for community support efforts
FOX 31 continues to honor our local heroes with the Jefferson Awards.
The Jefferson Award is the nation's longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to celebrating public service.
Tom Gieryic is March's recipient, and maybe you’ve met him before, at his automotive shop on Dawson Road when you needed someone to look at your car.
But if your home was hit by the January storms, chances are good that Gieryic might’ve given you a helping hand out there too.
“If I don’t have anybody waiting, or nobody’s coming in, then I just go home and load up all my stuff, call a couple of people and find out where I’m at, where I’m needed and just spend the rest of the day out there,” he said, added that he also goes out to help most weekends alongside his wife, Karen.
When he’s not out there, Gieryic and other volunteers are now reminding the city of how far it has come since the storms through wooden crosses crafted from storm debris. Gieryic said it’s an idea they borrowed after working alongside Samaritan’s Purse and seeing one of their volunteers do it.
“We decided to cut one, and it brought tears to the guy’s eyes, and it brought tears to our eyes when he teared up and posted a picture about it, and the next morning, I had like 80 people saying, ‘I want one of them,’” he said.
Gieryic said more than 400 crosses are now spread throughout the community, and the donations they receive for them makes sure volunteers have the equipment they need to keep going.
“There’s a lot of blood, sweat, tears and love in each one of them crosses,” he said.
He’s also the man behind another popular item in Albany and other parts of Southwest Georgia, the Back the Blue sign. Gieryic said the sign was a response to hearing about an attack on a Texas sheriff’s deputy.
“It just grew into something way bigger than I thought it would,” he said.
Just like the crosses, donations to show you back the blue will go back into the community
“What I want to do is supply some of these rural police departments that do not have bulletproof vests, believe it or not,” Gieryic said.
The crosses and signs are part of the reason Gieryic was nominated for a Jefferson Award, but he said he will accept it on behalf of all the storm volunteers, many of whom he now calls his friends.
“It’s not a pat on the back, but when we look at their faces and see the smile of us being there, the community helping them — that’s what it’s all about,” he said.