Wheeling chamber thanks area first responders with luncheon

WHEELING — On the eve of 9/11 and with a river flood approaching, Ohio County first responders took a few minutes Monday to enjoy a luncheon and accept some gratitude.

The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce hosted is third-annual First Responders Appreciation Luncheon on the Market Plaza in downtown Wheeling. It did so as a way to show thanks for the daily challenges and dangers first responders face, according to Lisa Goodnight, special events and marketing coordinator with the chamber.

Goodnight said the chamber hosts the luncheon for first responders and dispatch personnel with the Wheeling Police Department, Ohio County Sheriff’s Office, the local West Virginia State Police detachment and Wheeling Fire Department. With local flooding issues at hand Monday morning following two nights of heavy rainfall, Goodnight said Ohio County first responders seemed to be stopping in waves or shifts at the luncheon so they could handle emergency calls or tasks related to the storm.

“We sincerely appreciate everything that first responders do to keep our communities as safe as possible,” Goodnight said.

She said the chamber’s adult Leadership Wheeling class offers a course that gives people a chance to experience what firefighters go through on a daily basis.

The class is held once a year at the fire department’s training tower on Wheeling Island. After the class started, the chamber gained a better sense of what first responders do, she said.

“It gives you a whole new appreciation for the split-second decisions they make,” Goodnight said. “It really makes you appreciate what they do … so this is our way of saying ‘thank you.'”

Wheeling Police Department Deputy Chief Martin Kimball said while the department was busy handling plenty of “routine” calls throughout the morning, some officers were able to enjoy the luncheon.

“Every call takes a lot of time and we can’t rush things,” Kimball said. “Obviously, our first priority is handling the calls for the citizens and we squeeze in lunches whenever we can … sometimes we don’t even get a lunch.

“This is very much appreciated — that the chamber of commerce and the businesses associated with them going out of their way to provide a nice meal for us,” he said.