Loudon County E-911 Center dispatchers were given a pleasant surprise Dec. 16 when Joslyn Johnson’s Lenoir City High School culinary arts class and other teachers showed up with a free meal.
Johnson got the idea to surprise dispatchers when Jennifer White, E-911 director, emailed her to find out how to get a meal catered for the center. White intended to pay for the meal for all 25 employees at $12 a person.
Johnson had other plans.
“They had called us to cater, and since it was only 25 people, I just started thinking, I’m like, ‘They’re our essential workers. Let’s do something for them’,” Johnson said. “I challenged the teachers — a meal per person was $12, so the teachers paid $12 to be able to donate this to them, so that’s how it came about. All 12 meals were paid for.”
She showed up at the center with the free meals and a special plaque for White and her team.
Andy Fox, AWE Hospitality president, also donated $100 to the center.
The holiday meal is annual, but everyone typically cooks something and brings it with them. This year, because of coronavirus, White thought it would be best for everything to come from one source, she said.
“It was a little overwhelming,” White said. “We know that they have been struggling, the teachers, with the pandemic and moving to a new normalcy, and education I’m sure has been just as complicated as it has been for us in public safety, trying to adapt and everybody stretched thin. To just know that in a time that they’re stressed out and have lots of things on their plates decided to do something to bless others was pretty special for us.”
Center employees typically eat the meal together and in-person. That had to be changed this year, too, White said.
“Obviously, we can’t afford to have our people out, us being an essential service,” she said.
“We actually changed plans from having an in-person dinner like normal where we would do games and we recognize certain milestones throughout the year such as highest quality assurance scores and the people that hold those accolades, but we had to cancel all that in-person. We’ve had to improvise throughout the week doing different things as far as just virtually.”
Johnson and students boxed up traditional holiday foods such as turkey, stuffing, ham and pies in to-go boxes.
The plaque presented to White was for the whole center and was a show of appreciation for everything they do for the community.
“They are often overlooked in the world of public safety because they’re not always seen like firefighters and police officers, paramedics, but they’re just as important obviously and essential to the whole process of public safety,” White said. “But sometimes they’re overlooked. They don’t do it to be thanked or to get recognition, but when they do they really appreciate it, and it makes them realize why they’re doing the job that they do and makes them feel good about people appreciating them for sure.”