Published: June 11, 2018
First Responders hold a special place in the hearts of many of WoodmenLife members. Chapters show their appreciation in many ways, but three Kentucky chapters are joining together and stepping up to the plate.
The dinner plate, that is.
Since 2012, chapters in Calloway County, KY, have held a catered dinner for First Responders and their families, inviting city police, the county sheriff’s office, city fire departments, county volunteer firefighters, and state police located in the county.
“Our chapter, like most other chapters, is more about doing rather than talking,” says Marilynn Downey of Chapter 170. “We are not usually hesitant to help out when called upon.”
That first year, they served over 100 First Responders, their families and chapter members, and the event has grown ever since with other chapters supporting the cause.
Mike Faihst, Past President of Chapter 138, was a First Responder. Now he enjoys paying it forward. “It’s great to see the smiles of the First Responders and families,” he says. “We really appreciate their service. For me, it brings back good memories when I was a fireman and EMT.”
It’s important to recognize those who lay their lives on the line for us, Chapter 170 member Johnny Parker says, “because most First Responders have a deep love for community and are going toward disaster while everyone else is fleeing. They risk their lives every day to help people they don’t even know.”
“They perform a service,” Faihst adds, “which we need all the time. WoodmenLife is different from other companies, Faihst believes, because of the local grassroots efforts of members. The chapters do things in the communities. WoodmenLife believes in patriotism and giving back.”
In addition to the dinner, Chapter 170 members also walk in the Veterans Day parade, says Downey. “Chapter 170 has done this for several years, leading off the parade and handing out American flags. It is our hope that all spectators will have a flag to wave when the veterans come by. We can think of no better way to salute our veterans than to have them march down a flag-lined street.”
They also encourage participation in creative ways. “For the Veterans Day parade, we partnered with a local Boy Scout troop,” Downey says. “Their young legs can move down the street much faster than most of the chapter members, and they enjoy handing the flags to the spectators. As a thank you, we purchased a couple of flag belts so they could better carry the American flag and their troop flag in parades.”
Linda Fain is closer than most to the event. She’s been active for 35 years. “We just enjoy giving back,” she says.
She is a Chapter 138 member with close ties to First Responders: her son is a volunteer firefighter, and her son-in-law is a deputy sheriff, which she says has gotten her even more involved. She has participated in many patriotic events, including flag presentations, plaque presentations and American History Award events.
One of her favorite events is, of course, the appreciation dinner for First Responders. “I don’t know what we’d do without them. I’ve had to call them before, and it’s amazing how they get there as quick as they do.”
Two years ago, Fain’s son lost his house in a fire started by an unattended candle. She remembers the response from chapter members vividly. “A lot of them responded right away. They had homeowners’ insurance, of course, but sometimes that takes a while. [Chapter members] were taking up donations and clothing for immediate needs.”
The meal is not the only activity that holds a special place in Fain’s heart. “We help with the Kentucky Sheriff’s Boys and Girls Ranch each summer,” she says. “We donate stuffed animals for police to have in their law vehicles to give to children who find themselves in a bad situation through no fault of their own. I like doing stuff like that.”
All of these events pale in comparison to the sacrifices made by First Responders, yet they can have a huge impact on those heroes. “It makes me feel good to recognize them now,” Faihst says, “and I know I liked it when we were recognized for long hours and work to help others.”
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