Hot food and warm greetings were waiting at the Golden Griddle, 230 W. Ninth, early Wednesday morning for area police, deputies, fire and EMS personnel at the third annual First Responders Breakfast.
The breakfast is organized by Downtown Hays Development Corp., the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce and Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau as a way to say thank you to personnel from law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services in the city and county for the work they do.
“We wanted a way to give back other than dropping off a box of cookies or a box of donuts. We wanted something to really say thank you for all the support they give the community and our events,” said Sara Bloom, DHDC director.
Bloom and her assistant director, Ashley Roth, and CVB Director Melissa Dixon greeted each person as they came in the door.
It was the second year the Golden Griddle has participated in the event. The downtown breakfast diner donated all the first-responder meals and gave a 10-percent discount to their spouses.
“I just think it’s a thankless job, and we need to do more for our first responders. They sacrifice family, holidays, their personal lives to be out there protecting us,” said Golden Griddle General Manager Jessica Schwab.
“I wish we could do more, but it’s our little way of saying thank you,” she said.
Many of their customers are first responders, she said.
“There will be like eight or nine of them, and they’ll get a call and have to get up and leave,” she said.
That’s exactly what happened during the event Wednesday. About 7:40 a.m., radios paged an emergency, and several Ellis County EMS, Hays Fire Department and Hays Police Department personnel had to leave their still-full plates of food.
“We see that sometimes they don’t get to eat their breakfast,” Schwab said, adding the staff packages up the food and sends it to the appropriate station when that happens.
First responders were grateful for the appreciation.
Anthony Swindle, a volunteer with the Ellis Fire Department, and Adam Napell of Ellis County Rural Fire Department, attended the breakfast for the first time Wednesday. Swindle also enjoyed a free massage, which was being offered by H20 Float/Cryo/Massage.
“It was nice — good food. Never disappointed when it comes to this place for breakfast, that’s for sure,” Napell said.
“It brings a lot of people together, people you don’t know and can talk to,” Swindle said.
Hays Police Investigator Jeff Ridgway had breakfast with patrol officers Dave Odle, who was just coming off duty, and Scott Heimann and Sam Nielsen, who were just going on duty.
“Patrol division is where all the work’s done,” Ridgway said, acknowledging his companions with his coffee cup.
“Good way to end and good way to start,” Odle said of the breakfast.
“I think Hays has always been a very supportive community, and this is one of the businesses that has repeatedly demonstrated their support for all the first responders,” Ridgway said.
Carolyn McCollum-Scantlin, director of the communications center, and shift lead Brian Meis said it was nice the dispatchers were included in the event.
“I'm delighted. It's really neat to be recognized and appreciated by the people you serve. And in our case, people don't always notice dispatch. So it's very important to us,” McCollum-Scantlin said.
“We're the voice they hear on the phone or that the officers hear on the radio, but we don't have much public contact. So it's nice to be recognized as one of the first responders,” Meis said.