Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks, pastor of First Call First Responder Church, believes there’s never a bad time to thank first responders for their hard work. There are only so many hours in the day to do so, but he and his church family used all of the hours July 24 to do it.
“It’s just our way of being able to say ‘We appreciate what y’all do,’” Middlebrooks said. “There are many of us that work 9 to 5, but the reason we’re able to do that is because we have so many others that work 24/7. We’re able to sleep at night because they work all throughout the night. It’s a tremendous way to have one day where we can say ‘Thank you.’”
First Call and Chaplaincy Care, Inc. members started at 6 a.m., when they picked up breakfast from Fred’s Market and delivered it to personnel at the FBI headquarters in Tampa. They kept traveling to police and fire departments and more to deliver food throughout the day, including a stop at the TECO Expo Hall at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds to feed the newest Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office graduates.
All first responders were also invited to the church’s campus, 1510 Cre Road, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for free lunch prepared by members of the congregation and by Chef Keith Ware and his Umami Smoke food truck staff. The church’s fellowship hall is no stranger to visits from first responders — Middlebrooks calls it a “spiritual substation” where they can come for a safe space to work, eat, sleep or do whatever they need to do — but it was full of life and celebration for them on July 24.
“We just wanted to do that here at the church and through our organization, Chaplaincy Care, to provide lunch for them, to give them a place to sit and eat and also to enjoy the day God’s given us. When we can enjoy the day, we can enjoy the preciousness of life that comes with it.”
Middlebrooks said more than 360 first responders were taken care of that day.