HANFORD — First responders are the first people at the scene of an emergency and are trained to deal with stressful situations every day, so it’s rare to see them in the relaxed and social setting they were in Thursday morning.

First responders, including EMTs, paramedics and police officers stopped by nursing and therapy provider Hanford Post-Acute on Lacey Boulevard for an appreciation breakfast. The first responders relaxed and talked with each other over breakfast burritos and coffee or juice.

Marketing Director Shayna Nagle said this was the second breakfast the business has done for local first responders. She said she feels it is the easiest way to say “thank you” to the first responders, who the company deals with on a regular basis to help with patients.

“We felt like this was the easiest way for us to give back — to give them a free lunch or free breakfast, shake their hands, let them know we appreciate them and we’re grateful for what they do for our community,” Nagle said.

Nagle said the company holds either appreciation breakfasts or appreciation lunches for first responders every quarter. She hopes the tradition will get bigger as more first responders hear about the meals and stop by for some food.

Thursday, Nagle said there had been people showing up for breakfast in waves, swinging in when they could find time between shifts. The first responders could also take their meals to go if they didn’t have time to stop and eat.

Jeff Schneider, a paramedic with American Ambulance, said he has gone to Hanford Post-Acute for several appreciation meals. The 36-year paramedic veteran said going to events like this makes him feel good about what he does.

Schneider said it’s nice for him and the other first responders to go someplace that has a relaxed feel and where they can just sit down and talk with each other. He said it helps with the camaraderie between different law enforcement and emergency medical service workers.

“Not too often do we get a change to just visit with our allied agencies,” Schneider said. “We work together, but we don’t really get a chance to sit down and visit together.”

When the emergency service workers and law enforcement officers know each other better, Schneider said it benefits the emotional well-being of anyone who works in the field, and is also good for the community.

Hanford Police Officer Jarred Cotta said it was his third time attending an appreciation meal event at Hanford Post-Acute. He agreed that getting people from the different agencies together in one place is good because they can chat and share stories.

“We feel respected and we feel that people actually care about law enforcement, and it’s good getting to know all the people here because we work so often with them,” Cotta said. “It’s good getting to know all the employees and workers here too, and the patients.”

Michelle Pierce, the business office manager at Hanford Post-Acute, said officers and first responders put their lives on the line every day, and the meals are just one way the company shows its thanks for all their support.

“They help us out tremendously, especially the EMTs,” Pierce said. “They transport our patients back and forth whenever we need them. It’s just great to have them here.”

Pierce said the patients love when the officers and EMTs stop by, and will even wait at the door to greet them and tell them “thank you” as they come and go.

Curtis Dunn, a paramedic supervisor for American Ambulance, said many people only consider firefighters and police officers as first responders, so it’s nice to get the recognition along with them as well.

Along with the free breakfast, Hanford Post-Acute held a raffle for prizes and gave out “goodie bags” to the first responders who stopped by. Nagle said events like this offer an opportunity for the staff and patients of Hanford Post-Acute to become familiar with the first responders and get to know them better.

“We just want to make sure that they know they’re loved and cared about,” Nagle said.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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