As simple as it, the old saying, “What goes around, comes around,” is truly powerful, especially when it comes to good deeds.
Beth-Ann Buitekant and the Friday Food for Firefighters program are a true testament to this simple sentiment in the East Atlanta community.
Buitekant experienced a fire in which she lost her home before moving to Atlanta, so she knew the importance of firefighters' help. When she moved to the East Atlanta Village in 1984, she wanted to show her appreciation for what these heroic men and women do in the community.
“At the time, Fire Station 13 was in an old, dilapidated building. I used to bring over treats now and then, always around the holidays," said Buitekant, a registered nurse with a doctorate in clinical psychology. “But, over the years, I started thinking it should be more.”
It was in 2010 that Buitekant, who is the school counselor at the Friends School of Atlanta, put her plan into action.
She reached out to the neighbors, asking if they’d be interested in preparing a meal for the firefighters of Station 13 once a week.
Her friends and neighbors got on board and suggested they put the word out to the neighborhood association and the response was much more than Buitekant ever anticipated.
The name “Friday Food for Firefighters” was born and the meals were delivered on Friday evenings to the handful of firefighters on duty.
“It has taken on a life of its own! So many people have participated,” Buitekant said. “I know that a lot of people think about doing things like this, but it does take energy and a time commitment. I’m just so grateful that people are really following through with it.”
If there is too much food for the three or four firefighters on duty on a particular Friday evening, then they have meals for the weekend.
"They're always so thankful," Buitekant said. "We hope it adds something to their work, knowing the community is behind them."
But, it’s not just the East Atlanta community that has jumped at the chance to show their gratitude to the firefighters.
Living Waters Baptist Church in Lagrange, Ga. participated in last year’s East Atlanta strut and one of their participants ended up needing medical assistance, which came from Fire Station 13 firefighters. To show its gratitude, the church has begun donating meals to the station.
In January, it was Fire Station 13 that Buitekant called when she began to feel signs of a heart attack. She went to the station to get her blood pressure checked and the EMTs determined she was having a heart attack and immediately sprung to action, getting her to the hospital and making sure she received the care she needed. (She has since made a strong recovery).
“I don’t think they get recognized enough for what they do,” Buitekant said. “If we can just pay back in little ways, at least they may know know how much we appreciate them.”