They are first on the scene of a crisis, they can be found working all hours of the night putting out fires or making risky rescues. They are our local first responders.
On Saturday, the community of American Falls served up some gratitude by holding an appreciation luncheon for first responders in the park.
People in American Falls spent their sunny Saturday grilling up hamburgers and hot dogs, or serving up salad, or just eating lunch with first responders.
The community wanted to show appreciation for all that first responders do – and are not often thanked for.
Amy Larsen, one of the organizers for the luncheon, said it included a broad range of first responders. They invited law enforcement, fire fighters, search and rescue crews, dispatch officers and tow truck drivers. She said they invited responders from surrounding areas. Crews from Bannock County, Pocatello, Chubbuck, American Falls, Power County, Idaho State Police, Rockland and Aberdeen were all invited to attend.
This is the second year American Falls has done the appreciation luncheon. Larsen said this year, they planned for between 800 to 1,000 people.
She said it’s important to have events like these, not only to say thank you, but also to build community relations.
“When you have more of an association with a community member, as a police officer, you build a better rapport with people,” Larsen said. “People are more apt to be willing to report things that they see. It just ties the community together all in a roundabout way.”
She continued that they wanted to make sure everyone was included, especially those who are sometimes less seen by community members.
“Mostly people just deal with the police officers,” Larsen said. “When you add the fire trucks and the tow trucks and the search and rescue, they’re people that you don’t normally deal with on a daily basis so it’s nice to be able to have them around and meet up with them too.”
First responders who attended said when the community comes together like this in support, it really means a lot to them and keeps the morale high.
“it’s really awesome, honestly,” said Deputy Korinda West, with the Power County Sheriff’s Office. “It means a lot to us to have community support because sometimes we don’t see that in the every day job.”
“It makes us feel pretty good to know there’s a lot of people out there that like us so much and there’s community support for us for everything that we do for them,” said Officer Chris McKay, with the American Falls Police Department.
“I stepped out of my car and about two seconds later I had people shaking my hand saying thank you for what I do,” said Trooper Brigham Hymas, with Idaho State Police. “I don’t think I do anything too special. I just go to work, do my thing and it’s great to have people smile at me and say thank you. I appreciate it.”
“For volunteers, we don’t get a lot of praise all the time but when something like this happens, it’s truly a blessing and truly we love it,” said American Falls Fire Chief Pete Williams. “You know, these guys give their time to come out and give appreciation to all of the first responders and I appreciate it and my firemen appreciate it very much.”
Organizers also started a raffle at the luncheon. The money from the raffle will go to a first responders’ emergency fund, which will be used in the case of something like a family tragedy.
Larsen said they plan to continue doing this every summer. She said they plan to do it the last Saturday of July every year.