On July 17, dozens of police officers, rescue personnel, firefighters, community members, as well as the Chief Jennifer Morrison’s husband and daughters, turned out to support the police officer and her heroic contributions to the community at the inaugural Hero of the Year Award ceremony.
“I think they were trying to tell me as little as possible,” Morrison said as she looked around at those gathered for the celebration. “I don’t think I understood how much they were doing … I’m humbled and I’m honored.”
The event was the work of local RE/Max real estate agent, John Abry. It was the culmination of two months of planning, and another way for the agent to contribute to the Heroes Home Advantage, a real estate rebate program for emergency personnel, military members, health care workers and teachers who serve their communities.
Under the long pavilion at Airport Park, celebrants clustered with donated pizza, coffee and popsicles to listen as Abry, Lt. Doug Allen and Heroes Home Advantage CEO Michele Ladd spoke of Morrison’s accomplishments.
In the background, the woosh of flames filling a RE/Max hot air balloon could be heard. Morrison, on a day of personal accolade, took the spotlight off herself, encouraging attendees to donate to her favorite charity before riding in the balloon.
“Sitting in an office isn’t heroic,” she said. “It’s the earlier years, responding, that’re heroic.”
She spoke to the heroism of responding officers (which she once was) and how they “make someone’s worst day less bad.”
“She wasn’t 100 percent comfortable with the ‘hero [title],’”Allen said. “She likes that heroes in general are being honored.”
In his comments before the crowd, Allen listed a lengthy number of Morrison’s accomplishments for the department and in her career. Among these were a rewrite of the department’s rules and regulations, increased transparency in public communication, advocacy for officer resiliency and wellness and serving as the first female head of the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Jen brought the Colchester Police a combination of professionalism with a touch of mom,” Allen said. “She held us all to a high standard, but in the end you knew that she cared about you … as much as the end goal.”
Morrison’s daughters, Hunter and Bryce Colvin, 23 and 21 respectively, beamed broad smiles as they spoke about their mother.
“My mother is a hero largely for the qualities that she possesses and that she’s passed on to Bryce and I,” Hunter said. “The strength, the caring, the paying attention to other people and doing what we can to help everybody around us when we can.”
“She’s a great mom and a great soccer coach, and a great leader at our church and in everything she does,” Bryce said.
The two were happy to see the outpouring of support for their mother.
“It’s really awesome,” Bryce said. “I can’t say I’m surprised because I know how impactful she is in the Colchester community and beyond, but it’s really great to see how many people support her.”
For Abry, the event was a continuation of his work and partnership with the HHA. As a real estate agent with the program, he donates 25 percent of his commission to qualified buyers and sellers, totaling $4,500 thus far, Ladd said.
“It was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this,” Abry said of the event. “I was amazed at the outpouring of community.”
The event will be held annually and choosing Morrison as the first-ever recipient was a “no-brainer,” he added.
HHA was founded by Ladd, a real estate broker based in Rochester, N.Y. The organization was a way for her to honor her sons’ service in the Marines and Navy.
Ladd said after her son Tom’s two tours in Iraq, she noticed changes in him that made her more aware of the work, and impacts of that work, on those who protect and serve the community.
HHA has 350 partner realtors and loan officers across 40 states. The organization has saved its heroes, collectively, over $10 million. The HHA program is free, there are “no forms and no red tape,” according to Ladd.
As Chief Morrison prepares to retire in August, the event served to reflect on her decades of work in law enforcement.
“I’m excited for her to retire. I’m excited for her future,” Bryce said. “I know she’ll do something fun and exciting. Maybe not quite as in the spotlight, but definitely something impactful.”