- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) - A group of volunteers based in Fort Dodge is dedicated to helping first responders in a variety of ways that may not seem like much, but have a positive impact on them.

It’s called Serving Our Servants.

SOS, as it’s commonly known, was started in 2014 by the Rev. Al Henderson, of St. Paul Lutheran Church.

In addition to his duties at the church, Henderson is also the chaplain for the Fort Dodge Police Department, Webster County Sheriff’s Department, Iowa State Patrol and Fort Dodge Fire Department.

“Our primary function is to acknowledge our public servants,” Henderson said. “There are many who serve us night and day. Some critical situations, dangerous situations, life-threatening situations. And we have a small group that appreciates them for who they are and what they do.”

The Messenger (https://bit.ly/2f4HN4I ) reports that SOS works to express its thanks to the various public safety agencies in multiple ways.

Perhaps the act the group is best known for is serving pizza to the first responders.

In that case, volunteers will show up at the Webster County Law Enforcement Center in downtown Fort Dodge around 6 a.m., which is shift change for the Fort Dodge Police Department, and serve pizza to the officers, sheriff’s deputies and office staff.

Henderson said he also makes sure the jail staff members get a slice.

“At (Iowa State Patrol) Post 7, they’ll have post meetings semi-regularly,” he said. “And we find out when they’re having a meeting and we like to provide lunch because their meetings, as state employees, are very well-attended.”

The Fort Dodge Fire Department also gets pizza, but sometimes Henderson said that takes a little more coordination.

“The firefighters, we found, take turns fixing supper for each shift,” he said. “So we try to advise them in a timely way and take pizza for supper to all three shifts.”

On Saturdays, Henderson said SOS will deliver pizza to paramedics and emergency medical technicians at UnityPoint Health - Trinity Regional Medical Center.

“As I understand it, their staff has to work one of three Saturdays,” he said. “Therefore, we deliver breakfast pizza three consecutive Saturdays before seven so that we can get coming and going shifts at E.R.”

Since its inception in 2014, Henderson said SOS has expanded its volunteerism to include other agencies.

Initially, the only groups SOS served were the three local law enforcement agencies and the Fire Department.

“And then, a short time later, we got to thinking about the E.R. folks,” he said. “And then last year we even thought also of our snowplow operators.”

While snowplow operators might not be the first people who come to mind when thinking of servants, Henderson said the job they do in winter is critical.

“Those who serve in that position only have one type of interaction with the public, and it tends to be negative,” he said. “When, truly, they’re out doing amazing things. Terrible hours, bad conditions. They’re serving us as well.”

Serving Our Servants has recently started a Facebook page, which is maintained by Fred Tyre and Larry Hedlund, the latter of whom is also a Fort Dodge police officer, he said.

There are more than 50 volunteers who are a part of SOS at various times, but Henderson said sometimes volunteers aren’t always terribly active.

“I believe they all care, but some are not as active as I thought they were,” he said. “I’m trying to grow, to gain a few more.”

He said the volunteers have all expressed how thankful the servants are upon receiving food and help.

“Whoever our volunteers gets to deliver always has a thrill,” he said.

Some reactions the servants have included, “Really?” ”You’ve got to be kidding me,” and, “Who’s doing this?”

Henderson said, “They’re very thankful and oftentimes surprised.”

Henderson thinks that groups like SOS are very important, especially now with a number of high-profile incidents in which police officers have been killed in the line of duty. That includes the shooting deaths of Des Moines Police Sgt. Anthony “Tony” Beminio and Urbandale Police Officer Justin Martin on Nov. 2.

Henderson believes that there is a “silent majority” of support of first responders.

“On the one hand, there’s a lot of people doing some really neat things right now,” he said. “And, hooray, praise the Lord, thank God.”

“But the beautiful thing I believe about SOS is that we’re there still,” Henderson said. “Before, after, during events. We’re there and constantly showing our care and concern and appreciation for some of the best men and women who live in our world.”

One small gesture that SOS members have been known to do is write notes on customized paper with the group’s logo. These notes of thanks are then placed on either a police cruiser, fire engine or ambulance so they know that someone cares about what they do.

Henderson recalled one volunteer who was writing a note for a police officer whose car was parked in a lot. As she was finishing her note, the officer approached and asked what she was doing.

When the volunteer explained to the officer about SOS, the officer said nobody had ever done that to him before, and he took the note and placed it on his dashboard.

___

Information from: The Messenger, https://www.messengernews.net

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