GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Many dread having to work on Christmas Eve, but every Dec. 24 at Northlawn United Methodist Church, you'll find first responders with smiles on their faces.
For the 19th Christmas Eve in a row, volunteers at the church serve a hot meal to police officers, firefighters and emergency medical responders who are working the holiday.
“We have some of the best cooks in the northeast side of Grand Rapids, so I’m very pleased that we get to offer a supper when all of the other restaurants and things are closed," volunteer Martie VanHorn said.
VanHorn said she learned some of the first responders actually choose to work Christmas Eve so they can participate in the dinner.
“They’ll be able to eat their dinner and joke around with each other and have a good time," VanHorn said.
Depending on how busy the departments are, the church expects anywhere between 15 to 50 first responders to stop by for a meal.
The cause is a dear one for VanHorn and her husband.
“My husband and I feel really, like we need to do this because our daughter is a firefighter and an emergency medical responder," VanHorn said. "And when we no longer were having a Christmas family dinner on Christmas Eve, it was like, we need to take this over and we need to make sure that the first responders have a meal.”
To honor the first responders who have died on the job, there was a table set aside with a bible.
“It’s in honor of all of the personnel, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel who have died in the line of duty and there are many of them and we want to remember that they have given the ultimate for all of us," VanHorn said. "When there’s danger, they go toward that danger, rather than running away from it, like most of us would.”