At VUE Magazine, we are humbled that our community partner, Independence Bank, allowed us the honor of helping them pay tribute to our local men and women who run toward the fires instead of away, who serve as a glue that helps hold our communities together, and who are sworn to serve and protect us every day. We hope you enjoy “Honoring the Revolutionary.”
Every year, when September 11th rolls around, employees at Independence Bank can be found hurriedly warming up grills, setting out plates, filling coolers with ice, and pouring drinks. It is, after all, a special time for us.
It’s the time that we set aside each year to honor our local first responders with a free picnic lunch at Jefferson Square.
This year, though the cookout cannot happen as planned, we wanted to do something that would show the support we feel throughout the year for this group.
It is our way of saying thank you for the fact that first responders leave the comfort and safety of their homes and their families to take care of our community every day.
Our Chairman and CEO, Chris Reid, envisioned a bank that would elevate the quality of life in the communities we serve, and we feel that our local first responders also live that same mission every day.
We have worked with law enforcement, fire department, and EMS leadership to choose three men and women who serve to represent their whole departments. As you read their stories, we hope you will stand with us in honoring the sacrifices these men and women make every day for the benefit of our community.
At Independence Bank, we know that no matter what we do to honor this group, it’s never enough for what they do for us.
For their revolutionary work for our community, though, we offer our sincere thanks, this year and always.
-Kevin Kauffeld, McCracken Co President
Deputy Steve Croft
If you ask McCracken County Sheriff’s K-9 Deputy Steve Croft what constitutes a good day protecting our county, his answer is simple.
“Helping whoever I can throughout the day and getting home safely to my family in the afternoon,” he says.
For a law enforcement officer during these trying times, that might not be a sentiment that is heard enough.
But for Deputy Croft and his fellow McCracken County Sheriff’s deputies, he says it is a guiding principal for every encounter they have.
“In law enforcement, we impact so many different lives in many different ways. Any time I have contact with someone, it can be for either the good or the bad, but at the end of the day, we are just hoping that they are set on a different path. At the end of every day, I hope I have changed somebody’s life for the better that day.”
In his 20+ year law enforcement career, the Paducah native says there are “countless” stories of how he believes he has achieved that goal.
On one day in particular, Deputy Croft and his fellow officers stopped to offer aid for a family in distress after their car had stopped.
“I went and got them gas and even brought them waters to drink because it was a really hot day,” he recalls.
“They shared it and that story went viral.”
“I was glad that we were able to let people know that all law enforcement officers are not bad. Ninety-nine percent of us are out there to help people no matter what the situation is.”
“We run to what you run from.”
Deputy Croft calls the honor that his department receives annually from Independence Bank and the support from other local businesses and individual members of the community “awesome.”
“With so much horrible stuff going on in the news, we can feel like we aren’t appreciated at times,” he says.
“When businesses like Independence Bank and even our neighbors step up and acknowledge that they do support us, it can really help bring attention to what we do. It does mean a lot to us, it really does.”
Lt. Sarah McCord
Mercy Regional EMS Advanced EMT Lt. Sarah McCord says that being an EMT is something that she’s wanted to do since she was a kid.
For the past five years, Lt. McCord has been living that dream as part of the Mercy Regional EMS team. It might surprise you, then, that she says her best days on the job are when she doesn’t have a job to do at all.
“In all truth, a good day is when nobody calls for 911,” she says. “Because we know that the second someone is calling for us, it’s either the scariest moment of their lives or the worst thing that could ever happen to them in their lives, from their perspective. So, a good day for me is when everyone is safe, okay, and happy.”
Lt. McCord says there is a part of her career as an EMT that she has come to enjoy most.
“Especially for me, all the years that I’ve been with Mercy Regional EMS, you do get to know a lot of different people,” she says.
“Some people we see a lot who are in need or have severe health problems, we are able to talk to them and share ways to make things better for themselves.”
“We see a lot of people, especially in our homeless population or those with mental health issues, so we can give them resources and other outlets for them to get help.”
Certainly, Lt. McCord says she and her fellow members of Mercy Regional EMS do not suit up every day and help our community during its most trying times for the praise. But she says it doesn’t hurt, either, especially when that praise is coming from the community and businesses like Independence Bank.
“In times, it seems that the work we do is such a thankless job,” she says.
“We don’t necessarily think that someone needs to pat us on the back all the time, but it is nice to know that someone is looking out for us.”
“All of us first responders, even fire guys and the police officers, we are a big family.”
“It’s nice to know that the community does recognize that we are out there, and we are sacrificing a lot of ourselves and our families for the community,” she says.
“It does mean the world.”
Lt. Matt Meiser
It might seem like enough for members of the Paducah Fire Department to simply be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ready to spring into action if we have a fire emergency or medical issue.
But for Lt. Matt Meiser, the best days in the fire station are the days when they are busy doing things that aren’t fighting fires or saving lives.
“We always say a slow day at the fire house is a good day,” Lt. Meiser says.
To hear him talk about that downtime, though, it certainly doesn’t seem very slow.
“Through our fire department and local union, International Association of Firefighters: Local 168 Paducah Firefighters, we are able to do a lot of outreach in the community,” Lt. Meiser says.
The list is overwhelming when Lt. Meiser shares it. He says they annually participate in Paducah’s BBQ on the River to benefit the charities Coats for Kids and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). For MDA, they also annually participate in the national Fill the Boot campaign, working with local businesses to raise money for research. In addition, every year, they host a chili lunch that supports the United Way of Paducah-McCracken County.
“At Christmas each year, we do a special pizza party at our fire station for some families that might be in need,” he says. “We get Santa to come in on the fire truck and give gifts to 10-15 kids and their families, and we treat them to pizza.”
“In the summers, we try to do block parties where we show the kids the trucks and equipment, cook hot dogs and hamburgers, and spray the kids with water from the truck.”
What’s even more amazing about this exhaustive list of community outreach efforts is that many of the firefighters participating are doing so during their days off.
“Most of the things we do in the community, we do with a combination of on-duty crews and off-duty personnel helping out as well,” he says.
No matter if the days are spent fighting fires and responding to our cries of help or planning for another way they can help our community, Lt. Meiser says they are all enough for him and his fellow firefighters.
“It’s pretty rewarding just going to work every day and knowing that we can potentially help somebody on one of the worst days of their lives,” he says.
For all the work they do, Lt. Meiser says that the support they receive in return from the community makes it well worth it.
“There are a lot of different entities in the community, like Independence Bank, who support us and back us,” he says.
“We are very appreciative of all the things that they do for us.”