Near sunrise, the Senior Center of Finney County’s parking lot was filled with emergency vehicles.
Ten Garden City Police Department cruisers, two from the Finney County Sheriff’s Office, one from the Kansas Highway Patrol and three ambulances sat silent along two of the building’s walls.
There wasn’t an emergency. Instead, men and women in various shades of blue, grey and black uniforms moved in and out of the center throughout the morning, sitting around red, white and blue decorated tables and enjoying breakfast provided in their honor for Patriots’ Day.
The come-and-go meal was the Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program’s second annual breakfast for the holiday, and they used the morning hours to remember lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and to thank the area’s first responders.
RSVP, a volunteer program for those 55 and older, celebrated Patriots’ Day partially because the group’s sponsor, the Corporation for National and Community Service, recognizes it as a day of service, said Finney County RSVP Director Marty Dinkel. Volunteers arrived around 4:45 a.m. to prepare a largely fresh and homemade meal, and to give back to responders that serve the area daily, she said.
“It’s a national day of observance and remembrance, and we just want to remember them on this day and give back something. That’s what this day’s about, too … Not only the service the law officers, the firemen, the EMS provide, but their families too,” Dinkel said.
The breakfast caught responders during a 7 a.m. shift change between night and day duties. Officers arrived at the beginning of eight, 10, and 12-hour shifts. Several EMTs had just clocked in for 48 hours. Others’ days were at the mercy of whatever may come up.
“Besides roll call, this is our first stop,” said Garden City police officer Steve Edler, who sat at a table split down the middle with police officers and Finney County Sheriff’s deputies.
Police SMPO Robert Scrivner chimed in, “It’s not a bad way to start."
Some officers would attend other Patriots’ Day events later in the day. Students, faculty, staff and community members would join local first responders and members of the National Guard at a memorial observance at Garden City Community College. Later, the First Assembly of God would host a lunch for responders.
Like those events, responders said the RSVP breakfast gave them a chance to acknowledge and support the community, and many spoke with volunteers as they ate. Police Detective Jennifer Smith said local law enforcements’ openness with the community helped foster an environment of communication and support between officers and the public. Others shared her sentiment.
“The community stands behind us, they support us and when they do events like this, it’s really important that we support them back and show up…” said Police Sgt. Bill Powers.
For some, 9/11 was a tragedy that took place before they even considered joining law enforcement or emergency response teams. Regardless, the sacrifice and the risk hit home.
“On any given day, at any moment, there’s always that possibility that you could have a situation like that. Not necessarily like that magnitude here, but you can still have an emergency like that that affects your community,” said Margo Edler, a police detective.
In the meantime, Dinkel said the RSVP and the community were glad to recognize the responders and their service.
“We appreciate them all year long,” she said. “Not just today, but every day.”
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.