Susan Smith, the lead school crossing guard for Richmond County, is being honored Saturday by an area women’s group for “sticking her neck out” to protect the guards’ wages and summer unemployment benefits.
Nominated for the Divas of Destiny CSRA honor by state Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Augusta, Smith butted heads with state officials when she questioned a decision to eliminate summer unemployment benefits for the guards, part of a statewide reduction in unemployment for school contract workers.
The benefits later were restored, but by then, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had targeted the 71 guards’ part-time pay for further cuts, expected to reduce their wages below a level at which they will be eligible for the benefits.
The honor, one of seven to be awarded Saturday by the group, goes to women “doing something extraordinary in the community,” said the Rev. LaVerne Gresham Comer, whose mother, former Keysville Mayor Emma Gresham, co-founded the group with Frazier.
They go to “brave soldiers,” Comer said, women “brave enough to step out of the box.”
Emma Gresham revived Keysville’s inactive charter in 1985 and became Georgia’s second black female chief elected officer, serving as the Burke County town’s mayor for 20 years.
“When my mother became the mayor of Keysville, she had a lot of opposition,” Comer said.
Smith said she was shocked to learn from Frazier about the recognition, something she’d never experienced during her long service as a guard.
The luncheon is a fundraiser for the Divas of Destiny scholarships, which go to the winners of the Miss Keysville Pageant.