Auburndale Fire Fighters Served Lunch by Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation
by James Coulter
Robert Barrington serves as a lieutenant for the A-shift at Auburndale Fire Department. He and his crew members serve 24-hour shifts in 48-hour intervals. They prepare their meals in their kitchen at the station, but often they do not have the time for a properly cooked meal. Barington mentioned how one of his crew answered 24 calls within one week, leaving little time to cook anything.
“So you end up eating ramen noodles, so a home-cooked meal is appreciated,” he said. “Sometime, people…are super nice and come by to give us food and show their appreciation, and there is no real way that we can tell you thank you. We do appreciateit. We really do from the bottom of our hearts. We spend a lot of time away from our family, and it is super nice when someone reaches out for us.”
Recently, Barrington and his crew were served meals prepared and delivered by Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation. This local non-profit organization assists first responders and raises funds for the installation of defibrillators throughout the county. The meals included drinks, meatloaf, and chocolate cake as prepared by Freedom Tour Church in Lake Wales, and delivered by Melanie Brown Culpepper.
Melanie started her organization last year following the untimely death of her late fiancée, Michael Brown Culpepper, who suffered from cardiac arrest. First responders had arrived to assist him and resuscitate him, but could not do so, despite their best efforts. Since then, Melanie has been raising awareness and funds for heart health and local first responders.
“Sounds like it is a great program,” Barrington said. “We applaud anyone who really takes the initiative on their own to help others. We, as firefighters, obviously we got into this career to help people, and that is something close to our hearts that we hold dearly, but it means a lot when there is someone not getting paid who takes it upon themselves. Of course, all of us, asfirefighters, we do the right thing, and we help people. But to see someone take their time out of their day to donate their time and money and raise money to help others is so awesome.”
Over the past year, Melanie has hosted various fundraisers, from bass tournaments to 5K foot races, to raise money for defibrillators in the county. She recently used her funds to install two automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in two local businesses: her own salon, Melanie’s Cutting Edge, and another at Old Man Franks, where her late fiancée served as a security officer.
The Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation will be hosting their next fundraiser, a pool tournament, at Slate 8 in Winter Haven in Sep. 18. They also plan on hosting a large barbecue dinner for law enforcement in January. Currently, they are also developing an app that will allow people to locate nearby defibrillators in case of an emergency.
For the past several months, Melanie has been tirelessly delivering homecooked meals to first responders and firefighters at departments throughout the county. She previously delivered to the fire departments in Haines City, Bartow, and Lake Wales, and she will be making deliveries to Winter Haven and Lakeland. She plans on continuing these deliveries for as long as she can to keep her late fiancée’s memory alive.
“What I saw the first responders do when they came and how much they touched me, not just to save him, but the love that they will show me and my grandbabies that were with me,” she said. “And it is the love of my fiancée to keep his memory alive. If I can save one person with a defibrillator, his life did not go down in vain and I did this all for him to keep his memory alive with me.”
Terica Moore was one of the EMTs who initially treated Michael Culpepper with a life vest during a cardiac arrest several months before his death. Since then, she has been working alongside Melanie with her fundraisers and her monthly food deliveries, especially since Melanie assisted her with a fundraiser for her late son. She appreciates being able to help others who dedicate their lives to helping others.
“I am so glad to be a part of this and to show appreciation for the firefighters and EMT for everything they do,” Terica said. “I put defibrillators on people every day to save people from cardiac arrest, and then seeing everything that Melanie has gone through and losing my son, knowing that I was there to save him, that is what motivates me to keep going. If we can save one life, that makes a big difference.”
To learn more about the Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, visit their website at: https://honoringculpepper.com/