Last Wednesday brought a feast of fellowship and community camaraderie as local responders were treated to a homemade meal, courtesy of John M. Oakey & Son Funeral Home in Salem.
Smiles and conversations among police officers, administrators, 911 dispatchers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies lit up the day as funeral home personnel served a buffet-style meal consisting of barbeque, coleslaw, potato salad, green beans, macaroni and cheese and desserts.
The luncheon, said funeral home manager Dave Vanderpool, was a way to say thank you. “We wanted to do something special for all of the first responders throughout Salem. We have had an excellent relationship with all of these groups, and we are grateful for their service,” Vanderpool noted.
He added, “From presence and assistance at home deaths to funeral procession escorts, to efforts in keeping our building safe and to code to assisting families with death in the midst of financial hardship to bodies that are unclaimed in our community – our funeral home has so much to be thankful for.”
This is not the first time that John M. Oakey & Son Funeral Home did a selfless act for local First Responders. Similar gatherings were held over the past several years.
“We have partnered with the City of Salem twice. The first one was held in the courtyard area next to City Hall on North Broad Street and we included the Street, Electric and Sanitation Departments because they serve our community in a ‘First Responder’ type of way, too. The second event was very much the same as this most recent one,” said Vanderpool who plans on hosting another appreciation lunch in the foreseeable future.
There are over 36,000 first responders in Virginia, including thousands who live throughout Southwest Virginia. Cathie Thomas, John M. Oakey & Son Funeral Home President, has seen the hard work they do up close and personal for years.
“Every time that they step out of the door, these brave men and women make sacrifices by putting the well-being of others above their own,” she said. “The list of reasons why first responders are so important to this community is endless. With so much negativity happening these days, we felt it was time to invest in some positivity.”
Since 1866, John M. Oakey & Son Funeral Home has served the Salem community. Currently, roughly 30 people, including 11 funeral assistants, seven hosts and hostesses, five directors and three receptionists, are employed there.