By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Volunteers in northeast Minneapolis are taking time out of their holiday festivities to say “thank you” to first responders.

Members of the 2nd Precinct Advisory Council and volunteers prepared a Christmas Eve meal for police officers, EMS, firefighters and 911 operators.

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It’s a labor of love for these volunteers. They spent Christmas Eve morning moving food donated from more than 20 restaurants and stores into the 2nd precinct building in northeast Minneapolis.

The basement is where they set up a big spread, so those who are working to serve and protect on this holiday will have somewhere to go for a good meal.

“These guys and gals put their lives on the line every day,” Dorothy Bode said. “Very rarely does someone say, ‘Thanks for doing that hard thing.'”

Bode and her crew of volunteers has been doing this for close to 20 years.

“My kids love it. Our neighbors love it. It’s a high point for us. It’s about giving back,” Bode said.

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It’s the community’s way of making sure those who take care of them are taken care of.

“I really, truly enjoy giving to those who are helpful and look after us on a daily basis–not only police who do a good job, but fire and paramedics,” Jeff Meehan said.

“Every year we have about 150 officers come down, first responders, firefighters, 911 operators,” Bode said. “We open it up, and the community steps in. We just put on a party and say, ‘Hey, thanks for being there for us.'”

A gesture of goodwill some say is needed, in this time where some cities are dealing with strained police, community relations.

“It makes us feel loved, which is a good thing to feel this time of year,” inspector Katherine Waite said. “Certainly, with what’s going on nationally, it’s wonderful to have this kind of care and support from the community.”

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Dinner will be available Friday until midnight for first responders. So, no matter what shift they work, officers will be able to enjoy this community meal.

Reg Chapman