Monroe Christian School students wrote essays, a poem and made posters to thank the community's first responders.
Monroe Christian School students wrote essays, a poem and made posters to thank the community's first responders.
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Monroe Family YMCA executive director and City Councilmember Patsy Cudaback told herself she wouldn’t cry when it was her time to thank the community’s first responders during the annual Monroe Police and Fire Week luncheon at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church on Friday.

Cudaback paused briefly to take a few breaths. The wave of emotion was brought on by her memory of the time she and her family made a call to 911. She sent an email following the incident that read: “I felt like my family responded.”

“The way that you guys show up in this community, it is inspiring because you are part of the community,” she said. “You interact, you engage. It feels like a family in this community.”

Every year Monroe’s emergency responders are honored for an entire week, which Monroe School District superintendent Dr. Fredrika Smith wrote is not nearly long enough in a statement read at the lunch by spokesperson Erin Zacharda. 

The tradition has been in place for nearly two decades. Activities were initiated by Monroe police and fire chaplains Sister Barbara Geib and Pastor Michael Hanford in 2000. The two have long served as police and fire chaplains, Geib serving since 1983 and Hanford since 1998.

According to a history provided by Hanford, the multi-day event was only to honor the Monroe Police Department. The Monroe Chamber of Commerce, local congregations and other partners, including the school district, immediately jumped on board. Not long after, what was formerly Fire District 3, which has since become an expanded Fire District 7, joined in.

Fire District 7 emergency responders cover 98.5 square miles, providing services to 110,000 residents in Monroe, Maltby, Clearview, Mill Creek and other surrounding communities. Public Information Officer Heather Chadwick thanked the Monroe community for embracing the agency wholeheartedly since the unification.

Police and Fire Week is usually scheduled the week before Thanksgiving. Mayor Geoffrey Thomas signed an official proclamation setting Nov. 13-19 as 2017’s honorary dates during the Oct. 24 Monroe City Council meeting.

The chamber offered free meals of appreciation at Tuesday’s luncheon at Rock Church, a banner was hung high above Main Street, organizations brought meals and baskets to the agencies during the week, and businesses wrote messages of gratitude on their reader boards.

Following songs sung by the Frank Wagner Choir, and the gifting of posters and poems by Monroe Christian School students, prominent community members took turns to note publicly the two agencies’ achievements and sacrifices made to keep the area safe.

“We know how dedicated each and every one of you is to this community and the people you serve every day,” Zacharda read from Smith’s letter. “Working 24/7, 365 days a years too means many sleepless nights and missed meals, taking time away from your family and their needs to meet the needs of others.”

Monroe Public Library manager Philip Spirito, also representing the Monroe Rotary Club, noted the extensive outreach efforts each agency is involved in and the partnerships they develop within the community. Their support and presence make a major impact.

“When I tell people at Sno-Isle that 5,000 people come to National Night Out (Against Crime), their jaws drop,” he said.

Organizers estimate Monroe’s annual event is the largest in Snohomish County. Every year thousands of people turn out to take part in activities that aim to increase positive exchanges between first responders, law enforcement and the residents they serve.

Take the Next Step’s community outreach coordinator Sarah Lunstrum thanked Monroe Police for treating the community’s homeless with compassion. She said embedded social worker Elisa Delgado, who started on April 1, has had a tangible impact.

“Thank you for really blazing the trail and setting an example for other towns,” she said.

Monroe Christian School fifth-grader Keira Gjerde wrote an essay she read aloud on what being a firefighter means to her. She said her father is a Fire District 7 firefighter, and she knows they can wear many hats. They can be moms, dads, aunts and uncles. They have to be able to get ready and respond to a call in only a few minutes.

During the summer, they can be gone for weeks at a time to fight wildfires, Gjerde said. They can respond to dangerous natural or chemical fires. They may be trained in other skills such as water rescues, she said.

“A firefighter means I can feel safe where I am,” she said.