Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation Delivers Lunch to Bartow Fire Fighters
by James Coulter
Mike Hancock and Melanie Brown Culpepper had been childhood friends since kindergarten. They knew each other’s family and church family.
The two of them hadn’t seen each other since high school, but they had a welcome reunion on Friday when Melanie delivered lunch to Hancock’s workplace at the Bartow Fire Department on behalf of her non-profit organization, Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation.
Hancock serves as a firefighter and EMT. As someone who works hard to serve his local community, he always appreciated it when someone from the community shows their support back to them.
“It is very nice,” he said. “It is nice to have a helping hand out, knowing there are organizations out there that are willing to come in and step in and say, ‘Hey, look, we appreciate you!'”
As for the lunch delivered to them by Melanie, he loved being able to see an old childhood friend he hadn’t talked to since high school. He especially appreciated everything her organization has done for fire fighters and other first responders like himself.
“She doesn’t quit,” he said. “She has a big heart. I am glad to say thank you very much, and we love you…and you are blessed girl on your adventure.”
Melanie and her volunteers have been making lunch deliveries to various fire departments through the county every first Friday of the month for her initiative, fittingly named First Friday. Her first delivery was made to the Winter Haven Fire Department. The very next month’s delivery was made to the Haines City Fire Department.
Her First Friday initiative is part of her organization, the Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation. Her group’s mission is to support local first responders and fire fighters and to raise money to fund defibrillators through the county.
She started the foundation after the untimely death of her fiancée, Michael Culpepper, a local security guard. They were supposed to be married last year, but fate cut their expectations short when he passed away from heart complications. Melanie had called EMT for help, but despite their best efforts, they were unable to resuscitate him.
Melanie wants to show her support and appreciation for her local first responders by raising funds for their needs, raising awareness for heart health, and by donating defibrillators to be placed throughout Winter Haven. She already has one device set up in her shop, Melanie’s Cutting Edge. Another will be placed at Old Man Frank’s, where her late fiancée served as a security guard.
She also shows her appreciation by serving lunch to fire departments in the county every first Friday of the month. She especially loved being able to visit her childhood hometown of Bartow and reunite with a close childhood friend.
“So it was nice to come here and see my hometown and give back to them what they do for us,” she said. “I wanted to personally meet every fire department in Polk County and to personally feed them lunch for the day to let them know how thankful I am and how appreciative of them because they put their lives on the line every day to help save ours.”
The Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation receives their food for their monthly deliveries from Freedom Tour Church in Lake Wales. Pastor Bobby Williams personally believes that blessing others is a divine blessing in and of itself, which is why he participates.
“Our saying around here is that it is blessed to be a blessing,” Williams said. “So we are blessing the food to bless the people and show them the love of Christ.”
Recently, his church has been renovating the old Sears building in Eagle Ridge Mall. The 150,000 square foot facility will be used as the new home of their church. It is currently being utilized as the distribution center for food donations. They have produced more than $10 million worth of food for the local community since the start of the year, Williams said.
As for the Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, Pastor Williams is especially honored to help the local first responders and other rescue personnel who faithfully serve their communities.
“Our first responders, they are always the first ones on call that can help, so anytime we can give back to them, they are always given,” Williams said. “Even though it is their job, we know it is their love and passion, and it is our love and passion to go and help them and help Melanie with her heart and what she wants to do to reach people.”
The Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation will be hosting a fundraiser at Tanner’s Lakeside on Sun., July 25. The event will feature booths by the Winter Haven Fire Department and Freedom Tour Church. Festivities will include a DJ, bounce house, face painting, water slide, and other fun children’s activities through the day, and an after party later in the evening for adults.
For more information, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/honoringculpepper/