Illuminating heroes and changemakers


Every day, there are incredible stories of hope, compassion, and partnership where police and community are working together to help one another and make communities across our state safer and stronger. Help us illuminate these positive stories by nominating police and community heroes for Serve & Connect’s annual awards. 

This year, we will celebrate two awards at our Illuminight Gala scheduled for March 18, 2022, in Columbia, SC. 

  • The Greg Alia Award is presented to a police officer who has demonstrated exceptional service by going above and beyond the call of duty to build trust, strengthen partnerships, and engage in collaborative solutions that improve their community.
  • The Change Maker award is presented to a community leader who has gone above and beyond to serve their community by engaging resources, serving neighbors, and collaborating with partners to promote safety and resilience. 

Nominations are open through January 31, 2022. Finalists will be reviewed by an external committee of police and community leaders. Recipients and their guests will be invited to attend the annual gala and will be recognized via press and digital media. 

About the Officer Gregory Alia Award

Officer Alia was a hero for how he died; but more importantly, for how he lived. Since his death, countless stories have emerged about the ways in which Officer Alia touched lives every day through his kind, compassionate, and thoughtful approach to policing. He treated each person he encountered with dignity and respect, and he went above and beyond to ensure that all people were cared for in large and small ways.

It is in this spirit that we seek to elevate the power of little moments – those everyday moments that so often go untold – in which police are making our communities safer, healthier and happier places for all through their acts of compassionate service.

The Officer Gregory Alia Award recognizes an outstanding officer who demonstrates a commitment to serve his/her community with respect and compassion; one who goes above the call of duty to ensure that members of the community are protected, cared for, and feel valued; one who is committed to building trust and partnerships within the community they serve; and who works together with partners to make their community safer and stronger. This prestigious award is open to any law enforcement officer statewide throughout South Carolina and is intended for officers who, like Officer Alia, are serving in a non-command position.

About the Change Maker Award

In every community, there are outstanding leaders who have dedicated tremendous time, love, and compassion to the betterment of their neighborhood. These leaders are instrumental in making communities safer and happier places for all. They work tirelessly to understand what their community needs and build bridges to bring resources and support to lift others up. 

Too often, the work of these Change Makers goes unnoticed. That is why our Change Maker award recognizes the unsung heroes who are going above and beyond to serve their neighbors in communities throughout South Carolina. 

The Change Maker award will recognize a community leader who demonstrates a commitment to serving his/her community with respect and compassion; one who goes above and beyond to understand the needs of others; one who works diligently to build bridges with diverse groups, including law enforcement, to connect resources; and one who creates opportunities for understanding, trust, and building relationships. This award is open to any community leader in South Carolina. The community leader may be affiliated with an organization or may serve independently, but is intended for leaders who often go unrecognized. 

Nomination Information: Nominations are open August 4, 2021 – January 31, 2022. Nominations may be submitted electronically to or via mail to PO Box 6840 Columbia, SC 29260. Nominations are open to the public.

Packets must include:
1) contact information for both the nominee as well as the individual submitting the nomination;
2) a letter detailing why this candidate is deserving of this award; and
3) a letter of support from the nominee’s department (for the Gregory Alia award).

Supporting documentation (e.g., news articles, pictures, letters of community support) is also welcomed and encouraged.

Applications will be reviewed by a committee of law enforcement and community leaders. A decision will be determined no later than March 1, 2022. Finalists and departments will be notified of the decision and will be invited to Illuminight scheduled for March 18, 2022. Finalists will be recognized via digital communications and media leading up to and following the event. 

For more inquiries about this award or to learn more about Serve & Connect, please contact Kassy Alia Ray at or (301) 908-2635.

About Serve & Connect: Serve & Connect is a nonprofit organization with the mission of fostering positive change through sustainable police and community partnerships. We work directly with law enforcement, community stakeholders, and citizen leaders to serve our neighborhoods and connect our communities. Our goal is to build trust, optimize collaboration and work together to create measurable impact. The work of Serve & Connect honors the legacy of Officer Greg Alia by working tirelessly and passionately at the intersection of community policing and community engagement.

About Illuminight: This year’s annual gala will be hosted on March 18, 2022, from 6:30 – 10:30 p.m. at Junction 800 in Columbia, SC. The event will feature Chris Singleton as our guest speaker and live entertainment. The presentation of the Greg Alia and Change Maker awards is a key feature of the event. Heavy hor devours and an open bar will be provided for this black-tie optional occasion.