LINN — Members of the Happy Helpers 4-H group made sure Thanksgiving dinner was available Thursday for Osage County's emergency services workers.
A half-dozen ambulance service EMTs and paramedics were eating at the Osage County Ambulance District's main base on Missouri 89 — but others were expected to visit during the mid-day meal.
"We're hoping to serve about 25; we don't really know," 4-H leader Trisha Ely said. "Sheriff (Michael) Bonham was just here, and the deputies all know about it.
"The Highway Patrol and Linn City police all know about it."
In addition to those dropping by the ambulance base, she said, some meals would be taken to the dispatchers at the sheriff's office because "they can't leave work."
Paramedic Tim Powers wasn't scheduled to work but stopped by the ambulance base to visit with co-workers.
"This is fantastic," he said. "The community's always been a big part of making us feel like this is a 'good' day, rather than working a holiday.
"It's special when the community reaches out and does this sort of thing."
Ely said this is the fourth year for the project, which began at the suggestion of a friend serving in the National Guard, at a time when troops had been sent to Ferguson to help keep peace during the demonstrations and riots that followed the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown, 18, by a white police officer.
"She had to work at the quarters that day, so she asked if I would help put together a meal," Ely recalled. "We had like five turkeys and several hams — everybody from the community came out to help.
"So, we made it a tradition from then on to do something."
The idea has grown more popular, Ely said, and now there are plans to add a brunch for those officers who must work next month on Christmas Day.
Osage County ambulance staff work 48-hour shifts, so Thursday's luncheon came in the middle of their shift.
Powers said you get used to working on holidays, and for many, Thanksgiving is just another day.
"The fact is that if something tragic happens on this kind of a day, it kind of ruins the holiday for those folks (who experience the loss) for years to come — and you really don't want to see that."
Trisha's husband, Mike Ely, smoked the meats earlier in the week.
"We did about an eight-hour smoke on the two turkeys," he said.
"It takes a lot of patience — and I've got a wireless thermometer that tells me how it's doing."
Trisha said many of the 4-H students and community volunteers still spend part of the day with their own families.
Mike added: "These people are taking a lot more time from their families than we are.
"This (meal) is for them and everybody who's doing their jobs, that we typically don't think about on holidays."