AP NEWS

Fort FFAers serve up thanks to rescue personnel

November 11, 2016

They simply wanted to say “thank you.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, the Fort Atkinson High School FFA chapter hosted its first-ever Saluting Everyday Responders for Valor and Exemplary Service (SERVES) Dinner.

“It’s a dinner to honor all the first responders in the area,” FFA Vice President Kristina Church said. “We just wanted to show our appreciation for everything that they do, especially during these times.”

Members of the Fort Atkinson Fire Department, Fort Atkinson Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Ryan Brothers Ambulance Service and Fort Atkinson-area active duty or retired military members and their families enjoyed a meal of spaghetti, garlic bread, salad and dessert served by the FFAers at the American Legion Dugout in Fort Atkinson.

“It was just a free dinner for the first responders to say thank you for everything you do,” FFA adviser Shannon Lyon said.

Custom invitations were sent to each of the departments, as well as through the American Legion Post 166 members.

For at least this year, the event was not open to the general public.

T-shirts with FFA emblems and flags on the sleeves reading “First Annual SERVES Appreciation Dinner” on the front and a list of sponsors on the back were offered.

Lyon said the FFA officer team decided that if it was going to organize the event and if there were any donations, they should go to something related to first responders or the military. The students selected the Fort Atkinson Police Department K-9 unit as the recipient.

The Fort Atkinson Police Department acquired a patrol dog earlier this year.

Dino, a one-year-old German Shepherd, was sworn in to duty in May. He is a dual-purpose patrol dog, meaning he is able to perform duties ranging from drug detection, tracking, and area, building and evidence searches to apprehension and handler protection.

As the city’s budget remains right, Fort Atkinson Police Chief Adrian Bump’s goal is to use as little amount of taxpayer dollars to fund the K-9 program. To date, donations have helped outfit the squad car and providing Dino with a nice kennel at Officer Ben Boeve’s home.

Lyon did not have a final tally, but indicated that donations from the SERVES dinner were in excess of $1,000.

The adviser said the concept for the dinner began during the annual officer retreat.

“I’ve been trying to do something like this for three years, but I haven’t had an officer team that would get behind it,” she said.

This year, the Fort Atkinson FFA officers came up with the base idea for the event on their own.

“We wanted to bring back that whole idea of the officer team giving back to the people that has helped them and people that helped the community,” Lyon said. “It is something we haven’t put a lot of emphasis on and I think there is just a generational issue; to physically say thank you if they can’t do it via email or text message, they tend to struggle to do it.”

The concept started with the students going to different businesses around town, introducing themselves and saying “thank you.”

“It started as a public speaking kind of thing,” Lyon said.

That was until the students decided to stop at the Fort Atkinson Police Department and say “thanks.”

“They wanted to do an appreciation dinner for people that had helped FFA,” she said. “We looked at what was going on in society at the time.”

Lyon noted that over the past summer, there was a lot of strife involving law enforcement and anti-police messages and violence toward police occurring around the country.

She said the FFAers decision on the SERVES dinner came from that desire to show some appreciation.

Participating Fort Atkinson emergency departments embraced the idea. Nearly the entire staff of the fire department attended the event.

“They were very excited and very appreciative that we even thought of something like this,” Lyon said.

Sponsors for the event included Wayne Hayes Real Estate, Fort Community Credit Union, Aster Assisted Living, Fort HealthCare, Klement Towing, MK Cellular, Scott Spoerl Farmers Insurance Agency, Rock River Dental, Badger Basement Systems and Ball Corp.

The adviser said in the future, the event might be opened to the public. Whether it is or isn not, however, the students were excited to continue a new tradition.