A group of Frederick County firefighters, wearing masks and gloves, gathered in the kitchen of the union hall Friday morning on Yellow Springs Road to package freshly-cooked food into tin trays covered in foil.
“I need a spoon for this, please,” called out Lt. Richard Baer, only to laugh as he was handed a teaspoon. “Maybe a bigger spoon, please?”
Smaller utensils simply wouldn’t do, as the small group of firefighters had a big task at hand. Under Baer’s guidance as “head chef” the group had been working since 7 a.m. to cook up more than 50 meals to deliver to nurses in the emergency department of Frederick Health Hospital.
While National Nurses Week was technically celebrated the week before, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3666 — the local career firefighters’ union — had not had the opportunity to organize their annual show of appreciation until now, said Lt. Billy Rossomondo and Firefighter Austin Nelson, who helped organize Friday’s meal drop-off.
“In years past, we’ve done this same meal during National Nurses Week, but just because of COVID-19, we weren’t able to provide the meals during National Nurses Week this year,” said Nelson, a local representative of the firefighters union.
Fortunately, the end of National Nurses Week on May 16 coincided perfectly with the beginning of National EMS Week, which began Sunday and ends Saturday, so the gesture of mutual support was still timely, Nelson added.
“It works out just as well because we can say thank you [to the nurses] for the support [they] showed us during EMS week and still highlight everything they’ve done during COVID-19,” Nelson said.
By 10:45 a.m. Friday, the first firefighters began to arrive outside the ambulance entrance to Frederick Health Hospital, where the hallway outside the emergency department entrance was lined with balloons and colorful signs put up by nurses to celebrate firefighters and emergency medical personnel for National EMS Week. The cheerful display was a fitting sign that both groups of essential, frontline personnel valued one another’s efforts, Rossomondo said.
“It’s kind of like the spokes of a bike wheel how everything goes together, we rely on each other,” said Rossomondo, who is the first vice president of IAFF Local 3666. “We rely as much on the nursing staff as they rely on us, and law enforcement, as well. So however we can show our support for each other, we try to take opportunities to do that and help each other out.”
After a ladder truck from Citizens Truck Company arrived outside the emergency department, it was just a matter of waiting for the nurses inside to finish their briefing at 11 a.m. before they were brought outside to be surprised with the meal by the waiting firefighters. Inside, the nurses sat down to enjoy the offerings, which included a choice between pulled BBQ pork sandwiches, homemade egg salad or chicken salad sandwiches with side options including bacon ranch pasta salad and baked beans.
Stepping outside, Tammy Katon, the emergency department nurse manager for FHH expressed her gratitude for the kind gesture as well as her own thoughts on the close-knit relationship between nurses and firefighter/EMTs.
“The relationship between us is great. We celebrate each other with a profound respect. This is a perfect example of how tight we are, like a family,” Katon said. “Last week was Nurses Week and this week is EMS Week. Even in the face of a pandemic we can take a moment to say to each other, ‘You are amazing and I appreciate you.’ It really makes me proud to be a part of this team.”