A Drop in Every Cup: The Heroes of North Myrtle Beach Public Safety

By Leslie Moore

A Drop in Every Cup: The Heroes of North Myrtle Beach Public Safety

Lieutenant Dana Griffin, Patrol Officer May Lauzon and Firefighter Hannah McLaurin embody everything that is right about law enforcement and public safety. Learning about these three women and their work was not only an education for me, but an honor. And, fortunately for all of us, there are many, many more just like them. If you’re in North Myrtle Beach, please stop and say thank you…but, if not, stop and thank any local public safety officer. These are our real life heroes.

Lieutenant Dana Griffin, North Myrtle Beach Police Department

Lieutenant Dana Griffin, North Myrtle Beach Police Department

When I contacted Lieutenant Dana Griffin of the North Myrtle Beach Police Department about talking with Sasee for our “Everyday Heroes” issue, I was immediately taken with her engaging, friendly personality. But, after I sat and listened to her stories, my admiration grew into something much bigger, it grew into respect and awe for this woman who chooses, everyday, to serve her community as a law enforcement officer.

Dana grew up, and still lives, in Loris. “My husband, John, who’s also a fellow officer, and I live on family land, a horse farm, with our three girls, ages 15, 10 and 9.

When I asked her why she became a police officer, Dana told me, “I’m the first officer in my family; it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.” Dana has been on the force for 14 years and is now a Lieutenant and member of the Command Staff, supervising Special Events, Beach Patrol, Community Services and Victims’ Rights Divisions.

For the first three of her 14 years of service, Dana worked as a patrol officer, and then she trained to become a K-9 officer. She and her canine partner, Syndi, served together for ten years. Police dogs live with their handlers and when Syndi recently passed from natural causes, it was a huge blow for Dana. “I really miss her,” Dana said with obvious emotion. “I didn’t realize how much she was integrated into my life. I walked a certain way, sat at my desk a certain way, drove a certain way…all to accommodate Syndi.”

“I do think there are more challenges for women in law enforcement,” Dana began when I asked her about being a female police officer. Dana went on to explain that mentorship is one of the ways a new officer succeeds in law enforcement, and when she started there were no women above her. “I was very blessed with several supervisors who took me under their wing and made sure I stayed on the right path, and our director is extremely supportive with all minorities in public service.” Today, Dana mentors new female officers, helping them become the very best they can be.

Serving with the North Myrtle Beach Police Department is an honor for this seasoned officer, and with good reason. During the recent Memorial Day Weekend, the department received no complaints from the community and actually received over 100 compliments from motorcycle groups and citizens. “Our agency is a true service agency. Frustration with law enforcement is at an all time high throughout the country, but we haven’t really experienced that in North Myrtle Beach. Our philosophy is treating people fairly and with respect.”

Being a police officer means dealing with stressful situations on a daily basis, and I asked Dana how she relaxed and kept the joy in her life. Most of us living in our beautiful area will relate to her answer. “My favorite place, and the only place I ever feel completely relaxed is the beach. I love the country where I was raised, but I’m in awe on the beach. When I’m there, I feel completely calm.” Her busy life leaves little room for recreation, but Dana does enjoy time with family in North Myrtle Beach. After a beach day, the Griffins love to go to Ian’s on the Waterway and sit at the picnic tables for a family meal. Dana and John both love the House of Blues. “John and I met at the House of Blues when we were both working there before we joined the force. We were married there!”

Relationships are also more challenging for law enforcement officers. Dana told me that legally, law enforcement officers can’t talk about their work with their spouses, and the stress of the job takes its toll. “It’s easier for me because I’m married to someone in law enforcement. I can go home and talk to John about my day.”

Law enforcement officers see the very worst, and sometimes the very best, humanity has to offer. I asked Dana how this work had changed her and she shared this moving story.

There’s a local businessman who purchases gift cards, food and more for those less fortunate. I met this gentleman on a call one day, and we became friends. Soon, I began helping him give his gifts anonymously. It was around the holidays, and we received a call from a woman who had no way to feed her family Thanksgiving dinner and asked for help. I purchased dinner for her and delivered it to her home. I didn’t know who it was before I got there, but I recognized the woman as a known drug user. It was very disheartening to me to think that this woman spent her money on drugs while others had to feed her children. This job can make you jaded and not trust people – I was having a bad day.

Later, I was talking to my friend and telling him how disheartened I was, and he gave me his testimony. I would’ve never guessed that he had been in prison and was a recovering drug addict himself. He looked at me and said, “You know what your problem is? You want to help people and see the change that you make immediately. You get gratification from seeing the changes resulting from your help. You have to realize that it’s going to be rare for you to see these changes. Every time someone was kind to me, every time a police officer helped me get off of the streets when it was cold, it put a drop in my cup. Eventually my cup had enough drops and it ran over. You’re not going to be there when most people’s cups run over. You just have to make sure that you put a drop in everyone’s cup and never take one away.”’

This changed my whole perspective and way I police. I want my interactions with people to be as positive as possible and to help as much as I can. In every interaction you’re either taking something from someone, doing nothing or giving something. For me, the first two are not an option. I want to leave a drop in their cup and hope that it’s leading them in the right direction. 

May Lauzon: North Myrtle Beach Patrol Officer

May Lauzon: North Myrtle Beach Patrol Officer

Everyday heroes do their job quietly and efficiently, with little fanfare, never expecting to be recognized for the excellence with which they live their lives. North Myrtle Beach Patrol Officer, May Lauzon spends her 12 hour work shifts protecting and serving the community she loves with kindness and respect. Originally from New Jersey, May moved to North Myrtle Beach while still in college. “I was halfway through school and decided I wanted to move south. I got in my car and drove with no particular destination in mind.” When young May got to our area, she looked around and liked what she saw. “Everything I owned was in my Jeep,” she said laughing. Even with no family or friends in the area, May knew this was her new home.

May finished school at Coastal Carolina University with plans to become a physical therapist until she realized graduate school would cost $100,000! “I was working as a lifeguard at the time, and our lifeguard agency is actually run by the police department. I really admired the police officers and decided to apply, not sure I could make it because I have always trusted people a little too much.” May not only made it, but has consistently excelled in her three years on the force. “I hope to transfer to Beach Patrol eventually. Beach Patrol Officers do general law enforcement and also ocean rescue.” Already well qualified for the job, May is an American Red Cross Lifesaving Instructor and hopes to soon become certified as an EMT. “I have done many ocean rescues; we are the first responders, and our job is to give people the best care possible until the EMTs arrive, which is usually within minutes.”

Busy seems too mild a word to describe May’s schedule. She works full time as a law enforcement officer and serves as president of the Myrtle Beach Triathlon Club, which works to promote the sport and organizes races. “I’m currently training 8-18 hours per week for my fourth Ironman race.” If that’s not enough for one person, May is also in school full time at Columbia College studying Criminal Justice! “It gives me a different appreciation for the job,” May explained. She added, laughing, “I thought it would be “Catch a Criminal 101,” but it’s definitely not!”

May is young, attractive and amazingly fit and I asked if this made her job more difficult. “Our work is definitely more challenging for women,” she began. “Our department is great – as long as you do your job and keep your head, you are treated as one of their own. I find it’s more of an obstacle with the public.” May shared a story of making a traffic stop at night and someone asking her if her parents knew she was up that late, and other similar incidents, but she said the majority of people are accepting. “I have to work extra hard, and I have to work smarter.”

The dedication this young officer has for her work is inspiring. May’s work is her calling, and an incident last summer left her sure she was in the right place, doing the right thing.

Beach Patrol officers train our lifeguards to do CPR. They’re very young, in high school, and don’t realize that they may actually have to use this training at some point. One day last summer, we did have an incident and someone was pulled out of the water, unresponsive, and the lifeguard had to perform CPR. These young lifeguards, that we trained, handled this incident with so much professionalism. It was very rewarding for me to see how well they did. Can you imagine being 17 and having to pump someone’s chest? Their life in your hands? Afterward, there was a debriefing for the lifeguards at the station, and I was so proud and honored to work beside them knowing they can save a life.

Lieutenant Griffin is very proud of May’s work as well. “The kids in the Junior Lifeguard program adore May. She taught 65 young people about ocean and beach safety last summer, giving up her time off!” The senior officer went on the say that May rode a bicycle to Washington DC last summer with Law Enforcement United to honor fallen officers. “She wore a ballistic vest the entire ride to highlight the importance of wearing one. They are extremely hot and cumbersome.”

As an extreme athlete, May does understand the importance of self care. A vegetarian, she loves to cook healthy meals and play with her silver lab, Jake. Her quick wit and good sense of humor also keep her grounded. “This job will make you crazy if you don’t laugh.” May also finds peace at “The Point,” a northern stretch of beach. “It’s a different world out there, and because it’s such a long walk, not as many people go.” When she does go out, May prefers a casual atmosphere, like Molly Darcy’s. “They have great veggie burgers and sweet potato fries. Plus the patio is right over the dunes!”

“North Myrtle Beach is a small town, but has a lot of resources and the outlook of a much larger city,” May began when I asked why she loved her adopted hometown and her work as a patrol officer. “It’s an open door. I know I can always talk to my sergeant.”

“I think it’s very possible to be both fierce and kind simultaneously,” May told me as we were finishing up. “A lot of people think you have to be one way or the other, but it is possible to be both.”

Hannah McLaurin: North Myrtle Beach Firefighter

Hannah McLaurin: North Myrtle Beach Firefighter

With a heart as open as her smiling face, Firefighter/Paramedic Hannah McLaurin shared her story with Sasee, never considering that her life choices were both humbling and heroic. “I figured out while I was in active duty that I belonged with people having their worst day,” Hannah began. “For some reason, I never panicked.” Immediately after high school, Hannah joined the Coast Guard and served for four years and is now in the Coast Guard Reserve, working one weekend a month. She also serves as a full time firefighter for the North Myrtle Beach Fire Department.  And, if that isn’t enough for one person to do, Hannah also works part time as a Paramedic for Brunswick County.

“I was the first person in my family NOT to go to college,” Hannah laughed when I asked her why she chose a life of service. “I wanted to be in law enforcement since I was 18 years old and gave up a full ride to college to join the Coast Guard.” Hannah, who had planned to become an atmospheric engineer, chose instead to pass her scholarship along to the next person in line and enlist. That fall, instead of moving into a dorm, Hannah left for boot camp. “After I left active duty, I switched to firefighting because I realized I can physically do the job and mentally be there as well.”

A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Hannah, her older sister and her parents spent weekends and vacations in North Myrtle Beach while she was growing up. This close family actually built their beach house themselves and moved here permanently while Hannah was in high school. “It was my mother’s dream to live in a beach house, and my dad wanted to give that to her. He sold his airplane and used the money to build her dream home.”

Also an extreme athlete, Hannah developed a love for surfing as a young teen and soon became an expert, competing nationwide. That led to her fourth job as a surfing and paddleboard instructor. “I’m one of the only certified paddlefit instructors along the East Coast,” Hannah told me. “That job really doesn’t count though,” she said smiling. “They pay me to be on the beach!”

Last fall, Hannah and her then boyfriend, North Myrtle Beach Patrol Officer Bobby Hall, took a 40 day dream camping/hiking trip across the United States. They started in New Orleans, hiked the Grand Canyon and camped in some of the nation’s most beautiful spots. When they reached Glacier National Park in Montana, Bobby surprised Hannah with a proposal. Luckily, another group of hikers were willing to take a few photos with Hannah’s mobile phone and even videoed Bobby putting the ring on Hannah’s finger. The couple will be married this October.  “We only had one argument the whole time,” Hannah told me laughing. “And it really wasn’t that bad! We’re best friends.”  The couple did the entire trip with a rooftop tent and a special drawer system in their truck for storage. “We have the best camping kitchen in the world.”

“We knocked a lot of things off of the bucket list with this trip,” Hannah went on to tell me. “For our honeymoon, we’re going dog sledding in Canada. We’re adventurists and always like to take the road not traveled.” In three years, the couple will again hit the road, with tents and backpacks, to explore the northernmost parts of Alaska.  “We’ll take a logging road as far as possible and hike the rest of the way,” Hannah explained. “Mother Nature is so gorgeous in the United States; there are so many things to see. In a few hours, you are in a totally different world.”

The only female on her team, Hannah admits it’s harder for women to succeed as firefighters. “You have to pull your weight. Actually, I believe we, as women, should be held to a higher standard. I can do the job, and I believe I can do it better. We have to be physically strong enough and mentally prepared.” Hannah is one hundred percent dedicated to her work and this standard of excellence is shared throughout her department.

I asked Hannah if her two and a half years as a firefighter had changed her. “I do see people at their worst, but it’s always the hardest with children. I was still on probation when we had a call involving a child with a serious allergic reaction. It wasn’t looking good for that child – it was very traumatic, and I’ve never forgotten the experience.”  Hannah went on to tell me the child did make it and even remembered her when, two weeks later, she took the time to visit and bring a toy.

North Myrtle Beach requires all police and firefighters to be basic life support certified, and everyone works at the EMT level. And, while Hannah is a trained Paramedic, she does not use that training while serving as a firefighter.  All police and firefighters are also required to be qualified to use a gun, and both departments are trained to work as police and firefighters. “I could work under a Class 3 Officer like May [Patrol Officer May Lauzon] as a Class 1 Patrol Officer, and May could work under me as a Level 1 Firefighter.”

Hannah is very proud of the camaraderie between the city’s departments. “You don’t always have that other places. In North Myrtle Beach, from city managers down, we’re no more important than any other department. We look out for each other as a family, and no questions are asked if one of us needs help – we’re just there.” The City of North Myrtle Beach has also inspired tremendous loyalty in Hannah. “Our new chief has been here for a little more than a year, and he’s doing a great job. It’s a family. My crew and I might joke around all day, but when there’s a call, we’re there for each other.”

Hannah does take time for self care, even though I was never able to figure our when! She loves to surf. “I get into a zone and just go – it’s so relaxing.” And girls’ nights are a monthly event as well. A woman with many layers, Hannah loves red wine and, if she’s free, goes to local wine tastings on Fridays. Special occasion date nights will find her at Sea Blue, her favorite, and on top of everything else, this energetic woman loves to get in the kitchen and make her signature red velvet cheesecake or chocolate peanut butter cake.

As we were finishing up our time together, Hannah told me, “When it comes to personal goals, don’t ever say can’t.” After our time together, I cannot imagine this amazing young woman ever uttering that word. If you’re in North Myrtle Beach, stop and say thank you to Hannah and every one of the real life heroes who serve the City of North Myrtle Beach with so much passion and dedication.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave your mark with style

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close