Amid trying times, a dinner to honor emergency personnel

Barbara Hootman

With all the police shootings in the news lately, the owner of Sweet on Cherry Street decided to throw a dinner for Black Mountain's police officers and firefighters. The dinner, to be held at the fire department Aug. 1, is meant to show how much the town's businesses and residents appreciate them.

Black Mountain police officer Buster Gray walks by Sweet on Cherry Street, part of the downtown beat  he's had for three years.

“After I talked to Sydney (his wife) about my idea, we started contacting merchants around us, and then spreading out," said Walt McDougald, who owns the sweet shop.

Sydney McDougald has been calling businesses to ask for donations. Sometimes she has had to go back two and three times to get to the right person, she said.

“It does my heart good for us to come together and show how much we appreciate our police and firemen’s integrity,” she said.  “They are just a great group of people.”

The McDougalds may have had the idea for the dinner, but they are quick to point out  they are merely coordinating the event. The donors have made  it possible, they said. “This is not about me and Walt,” Sydney said. “This is about the Black Mountain businesses and community expressing their appreciation.”

Along with dinner, there will be a check presentation, and certificates given to each fireman and policeman saying, “You make a difference.”

Police chief Steve Padgett said he wasn’t surprised by the dinner.

“We are extremely blessed to serve in this community where community relations are good,” Padgett said.  “When Walt contacted me,  I told him that the dinner is appreciated but that we here to protect and serve and it is our duty.  The businesses and community are not under any obligation to do this.  We are shown appreciation every day.  People come up to us on the streets and thank us.  We want to give to our community, and we expect nothing in return.”

Fire chief Steve Jones agreed with Padgett. The community already appreciates its firefighters, he said.

“Appreciation for our services is not a problem in Black Mountain,” Jones said. “We work to serve the people and love to protect and serve our community.  This dinner is no surprise to me because people do nice things for us all the time.  Our community is an appreciative one, and people aren’t afraid to show how they feel. Firefighters love to eat, so they are going to enjoy the meal.”

“All the money not spent on expenses will be donated to the police and fire departments’ favorite charity,” Walt said.  “If you would like to donate, (send) mail to Sweet on Cherry Street, 114 Cherry St., or drop it off at the shop.”

Padgett said any money the police department and fire department receive will be given to the community in the form of a charitable donation.