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Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

A community effort


At approximately 8:45 p.m. Saturday night, the Grand Coulee Senior Center received a call from the Department of Natural Resources with a simple but somewhat daunting request: Could we feed the firefighters breakfast and dinner on Sunday? Within the hour, we were able to contact enough volunteers throughout the community to answer with a somewhat nervous yes. What happened over the next 24-plus hours was amazing.

We were not expecting it when we accepted this challenge, but the senior center ended up getting paid for it, so we do not need any cash donations to recoup. It turned out to be a tremendous fundraiser.

By 9:30 p.m., senior center members were at the center checking supplies, setting up tables, and putting together an action plan. Donations began arriving: eggs, bacon, sausage, orange juice, syrup. People were determined to help.

At 4 a.m., the breakfast shift began to arrive. Not a skeleton crew of a few close friends of the senior center, but over 20 individuals came throughout the morning, representing all of our local communities. More donations arrived. By 5, we were ready to feed the crews just waking up for their turn out on the line. Virtually all of them had been working fires in other areas before getting to the coulee for a few hours of sleep. We were originally requested to serve until 8, but it turned out to be more difficult to get the new crews in place in order to get the overnight crews in for breakfast. We served our final breakfast at roughly 10:40. Then it was time to clean up and work out our plan for dinner.

Most of the early volunteers (reluctantly) went home for a few hours’ rest before the dinner shift. Local gardeners began delivering tomatoes and other produce from their gardens and we began making salads and spaghetti sauce. By dinnertime, we were ready to serve spaghetti with vegetarian or meat sauce, green salad, potato salad, sautéed zucchini and veggies, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, sliced watermelon, rolls, and a choice of dozens of different desserts: everything from homemade blackberry pie to no-bake cookies (provided by our youngest volunteer, 9-year-old Cody) while volunteers circulated through the tables with coffee, lemonade and water. Our last crew of six arrived at about 9:30 and were able to relax and eat their meal while we started the process of cleaning up.

The firefighters came from all over the state, and I think I can say that we worked hard to give them a good first impression of our coulee community. The men and women we saw were unfailingly polite and professional young people we can all be proud of. They told us time and time again how grateful they were for the meal and for the chance to enjoy it sitting down at a table — often their meals are taken standing at a trestle table or sitting on the ground.

At the end of a long day Saturday, we had fed approximately 300 firefighters and support personnel. Over the course of the day, 40-plus volunteers did the hard work. We received food and cash donations from dozens of individuals and businesses. It was truly a community effort.

I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support we received.

Cheryl Hoffman

President, Grand Coulee Senior Center

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