More than 30 representatives from the Woodinville, Kirkland, Redmond Bothell and Shoreline Police and Fire departments congregated in the garden area of Willows Lodge Friday, May 22, to receive accolades for the 200-plus area first responders who've continually put their lives on the line during the coronavirus pandemic.
The event, dubbed Gratitude Feed, was hosted by STOP THE BUG, a nationwide PPE response organization.
“Every day you put your lives on the line for us,” said Victory Lonnquist, Woodinville resident and founder of STOP THE BUG. “You do so much for others and today is our opportunity to give back to you and honor you for the brave heroes that you are.”
Woodinville Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Greg Garat then stepped up to the microphone to offer his praise to his fellow first responders and to call up members from each agency starting with Kirkland Fire and Kirkland PD to pick up their three-course roasted chicken, grilled spring vegetables and dessert to-go meals prepared by The Herbfarm Restaurant, cold brew coffee and espresso from Caffe Vita, PPE from Outdoor Research, and hand sanitizer from Biotech.
“We were all taken back by the herculean effort made by STOP THE BUG to provide love and support to so many first responders,” Garat said. “They were already supporting us by providing much needed personal face masks, and then they decided to go above and beyond and do this.”
Garat said it was the largest event of its kind he had ever seen in his 24 years as a firefighter.
“Working with The Herb Farm, Darigold, Caffe Vita, Essentia, and Outdoor Research, they were able to provide an amazing dinner and personal face mask to every on-duty firefighter and police officer in Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell and Woodinville. This encompasses nearly 200 first responders covering an area approximately 100 square miles,” Garat said. “It’s amazing when you really think about it. We are very grateful and humbled by the continuous support that we receive from the community and organizations like Stop The Bug. In these tough times, it was a true shot in the arm.”
Nikki Speaks, who founded Gratitude Masks and has since merged with Lonnquist’s group to become Stop the Bug Gratitude Masks said honoring the “local heroes” was a humbling and amazing experience.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion as the Kirkland Police pulled in to get in line. Following them came Kirkland Fire and Rescue, Redmond Police, Redmond Fire and Rescue, Bothell Police, Bothell Fire and Rescue, Shoreline Fire and Rescue, and finally my personal hometown heroes, Woodinville Police and Woodinville Fire & Rescue,” Speaks said. “Food and thank you will never be enough to convey my personal gratitude for all of them and so many more. Thank you to all first responders. You are loved and appreciated.”
In total, STOP THE BUG has as distributed over 20,000 face masks 35,000 N95 respirators, 40,000 isolation gowns, 11,000 medical shields, and 55 gallons of hand sanitizer. To join the STOP THE BUG effort to provide PPE, email Lonnquist at email@example.com. For more information on STOP THE BUG, visit www.stopthebug.org.