First responders thanked with drive-thru lunch in Brewer

BREWER, Maine (WABI) – Gratitude and good food were both on the menu in Brewer on Monday.

The Bangor Area Recovery Network joined with the United Way of Eastern Maine to throw a first responder luncheon Monday afternoon.

“It is what we do, and we don’t accept that thanks very well because, you know, we’re big and tough, right? But it does — it means a lot to each and every one of us, and it’s truly appreciated,” said Deputy Chief Erik Tourtillotte of the Brewer Fire Department .

“It’s a hard job, and it’s kind of thankless at many times. So, we wanted to partner with the BARN to be able to do a little thing and just prove lunch today, make sure they know we are thinking of them,” Matt Donahue, United Way of Eastern Maine chief impact officer.

Along with a sandwich from Harvest Moon, the brown bags included a note from someone in recovery telling their story and saying thank you.

“We realize that they do a really tough job and that they’ve also done a good job of keeping our people alive, helping people with substance use disorder not perish before they can find recovery. We want them to see the good result that comes of that, the people who find recovery and really change their lives,” said Robert Fickett, BARN executive director.

“It means a lot to see people turn it around and make improvements for themselves. We do see people when they’re at their lowest point. To be able to see someone who has graduated beyond that, it just means you did your job,” Tourtillotte said.

Organizers say these kinds of events allow first responders to see those in recovery thriving. They also help those in recovery see law enforcement in a new light, too.

“Even people who’ve been in recovery for seven, 10, 12 years, see a police car and kind of freeze up and think, ‘Oh my God, that’s a police officer.’ They’ve done nothing wrong, but their past experiences make them feel that way. So, this is also a way for them to see a police officer and thank them,” said Shelly Yankowsky, who’s on the BARN Board of Directors.

BARN had over 700 unique visitors last month up from about 300 in February. Fickett says it’s good that folks are reaching out for help, but the numbers show there’s still a need for more services.

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