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Groups give thanks to Belmont County’s first responders

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK Barton Fire Department Chief Kirk Smolenak, left, picks up lunches for himself and the firefighters from Sarah Barickman, outreach director for Care Funeral and Cremation Specialists, during an appreciation day for Belmont County’s first responders.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County’s first responders had a day of recognition and appreciation Thursday, when Care Funeral Home in partnership with the St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce again provided a lunch for the men in women in the fields of firefighting, emergency care and law enforcement.

This is the fourth annual event, and slightly different from prior years due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In prior years, a table had been set up in the funeral hall for responders to stop by, sit down and enjoy some fellowship.

Current rules for masking and social distancing mean a table was instead set up in front and responders could pick up their lunches. Often one responder would take multiple boxes back for the others.

Sarah Barickman, outreach director for Care Funeral and Cremation Specialists, said they are making adjustments.

“In the years past, we’ve been able to invite them into the funeral home,” she said. “With the pandemic this year and the way things are changed, we didn’t want to not have the event.”

Barickman said they are also delivering lunches to sites if none of the responders could make it. About 75 to 100 lunches were handed out. Deliveries were also made to the Belmont County Health Department.

“They support all of us, and we wanted to make sure they know that we support them,” she said. “We’ve tried to get all of the fire departments and stations throughout Belmont County.

She said they are also promoting the Treasured Heroes program.

“Our funeral home will provide a no-cost funeral for law-enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency service personnel who die in the line of duty,” she said.

“It’s a great thing that they do for us. It is nice to be appreciated once and awhile, and this is one way they go about doing that,” Barton Fire Department Chief Kirk Smolenak said as he picked up lunches for his firefighters. “We appreciate them, and obviously they appreciate us.”

He said the pandemic has called for some adaptations from first responders.

“The COVID has really put a cramp in our style as far as operations go, all the way around,” he said. “It’s just tough, but we gotta do what we gotta do and make the best for people.”

Smolenak said sanitation measures and protective gear has been integrated into their operations.

“Even a car wreck, we have to wear masks because we don’t know if that person in that car wreck is free of COVID,” he said.

First responders across the nation have traditionally been honored on or near the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, due to their heroic efforts on that day and the days that followed.

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