KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The most recent data shows about two-thirds of Americans are off work Thursday for Thanksgiving. But that is not the case for thousands of first responders nationwide.
It’s busy as usual at the Knox County 911 center during the holiday as staff makes sure everybody is taken care of and spirits are little higher at work as employees received a free Thanksgiving feast.
“It’s hard to work on a holiday but we’re always here,” dispatcher Elizabeth Linebarger said. “People always need us. We take care of everybody who calls no matter what day it is.”
While working hard, Linebarger says you can definitely build up an appetite. So, Ryan Harrison and his team are made a big, tasty delivery.
“Just out of kindness really,” Ryan said. “It was something we saw an opportunity to do and just jumped on it.”
Heather Harrison said, “Most of them will not get to spend Thanksgiving with their families because they’ll be here working. They work 12-hour shifts so it’s just nice to have something comforting.”
“Just to know that on a holiday we don’t have to eat sandwiches or try and find a restaurant that might be open to get a hamburger, it’s very heartwarming,” Linebarger said.
While partnering with East Tennessee businesses, Ryan Harrison has volunteered for the last six years to organize the Thanksgiving meal. For him, the event has become a family tradition.
He said, “I don’t make any of it. I just pick it up and drop it off and heat it up for them. We take donations from people who don’t want to prepare food and use that to offset the cost.”
“We eat today. We eat tomorrow. It’s more food than we could possibly eat. The donations are just fantastic,” Linebarger said.
Heather added, “We more look at it as they need help because they’re here so they’re helping others, so we’re helping them.”
Ryan plans to not stop paying it forward anytime soon. We will keep you updated as he plans for next year’s feast.