GREENFIELD — They came through the front door sporadically. Sometimes in large groups, wearing matching uniforms; some blue, some brown. Often, it was a lone face, glancing around timidly at first until finding a group of friends.
Hand-drawn in chalk on the menu board was a message welcoming them, decorated with doodles of fire engines and police cars. And as they loaded their plates with chicken and potatoes, they nodded in appreciation of kind smiles and messages of thanks called out by other patrons.
Local first-responders were treated to a free meal Friday at Carol’s Cornerstone Café in Greenfield in honor of what the staff declared “Blue Friday.”
Each member of Hancock County’s fire and police departments who walked through the doors of the cafe was treated to a lunch buffet of home-cooked favorites. It was a show of support from grateful community members in the wake of tragedies — even one just hours old — that over the past few weeks have called first-responders around the world into action to protect people from once unthought-of dangers, organizers said.
A terrorist attack in Nice, France, Thursday evening called French police officers into action after a 19-ton truck drove through a throng of Bastille Day celebrators, killing more than 80 people.
The attack in France came on the heels of a shooting in Dallas that is being called the deadliest attack on law enforcement since Sept. 11.
Five Dallas police officers were fatally shot and seven others were wounded while providing security for a Black Lives Matter protest on July 7.
The protests were sparked by the deaths of two black men killed by police last week in separate incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Local police officers called the attacks shocking, admitting they were worried how the shootings would affect their relationships with the Hancock County citizens they protect.
Throughout the week, however, local businesses and community members have gone out of their way to make first-responders feel appreciated, Hancock County Sheriff Mike Shepherd said.
Pizza shops dropped off lunch to the sheriff’s department and dispatch center, and members of the community shared cakes and cookies with other agencies, Shepherd said.
Friday’s lunch at Carol’s was another kind-hearted gesture and a nice way to cap off the week, Shepherd said while polishing off his second plate.
Carol Stover, the restaurant’s owner, said she was lying awake in bed one night after hearing of the Dallas shootings and wondered what she could do to help.
Her restaurants sits in the shadow of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and just down the road from the Greenfield Police Department, and she often watches those men and women as they drive, heading out to heed whatever call for help was just received.
So, she pulled her staff together, readied the menu and spread word that lunch Friday was on her, Stover said.
Each employee wore a blue T-shirt proclaiming “Blue Friday,” and they took turns visiting the tables where police, firefighters and paramedics sat to eat.
Charlotte Harmon, who visits the restaurant every day for lunch, volunteered to sit near the front door because she wanted greet each first-responder who came inside, she said. She kept a list of their names or units so the staff could send out thank-you cards in the coming weeks.
A group of Greenfield firefighters filed into the restaurant just before noon after parking their engines and ambulances outside. They’d been talking just minutes before about where to get lunch when they spotted a flyer for Blue Friday hanging on a bulletin board in the fire station just around the corner.
It seemed like a perfect option.
“As long as the buffet holds up, this is Station No. 3 today,” Greenfield firefighter Kenny Dowden joked.