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There was a strong smell of shrimp emanating from the Orlando Fraternal Order of Police union hall on Thursday.
That’ll happen when there’s 1,500 pounds worth of it being cooked.
Volunteers from St. Joseph Hospice in Gulfport, Miss., drove more than 11 hours to Orlando with the freshly caught shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico to honor first responders from the June 12 Pulse nightclub shooting, where 49 people were killed and more than 50 others injured.
The company provides end-of-life care in Mississippi and Louisiana, among other states.
Mark Crowson, regional director of St. Joseph, said he and about a dozen volunteers started cooking at 5:30 a.m. to feed the police, fire and emergency workers.
They boiled the shrimp in big pots outside. They also made potatoes and ears of corn. They wanted to honor them in a “Day of Praise.”
“They went in and risked their lives,” he said. “They did such a good job.”
St. Joseph does not have any facilities in Central Florida, but still wanted to come honor them.
“It ain’t about business,” Crowson said. “It’s about doing the right thing. It’s very important that we as citizens thank them every day because they protect us.”
Volunteers from St. Joseph, which is owned by The Carpenter Foundation, have also been to Louisville, Miss., to honor first responders after the 2014 hurricane and plan to go to Baton Rouge, La., next week for an event for those who helped flood victims.
The Orlando shooting stood out because of the brutality of it.
“It seems like every week we turn on the TV and there is another shooting,” Crowson said. “We should get back to a world where neighbors help neighbors.”
Pat Mitchell, CEO of The Carpenter Health Network, said it’s important to give back to the community.
“We want to honor all first responders in Orlando for going beyond the call of duty after this tragedy,” he said. “We are honored to be able to reach out and show our appreciation.”
The Carpenter Health Network also donated $2,000 to the Guardian of the Shield fund, which supports wounded Orlando police officers.
Authorities from the Florida Highway Patrol, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Orlando Police Department, Orlando Fire Department all attended the event, among others. It was open to all responders, not just the ones who went to Pulse. About 3,000 first responders came to enjoy the food.
Orlando police spokeswoman Sgt. Wanda Miglio called it the “power of love.”
“It’s overwhelming the amount of support we have received locally and nationally,” Miglio said. “I don’t even know how to express the joy we feel just for the support we have been receiving since this incident.”
And yes, the shrimp was delicious, Miglio said.
“There’s nothing else like it,” Crowson said