Sometimes, a simple gesture means a lot.

Sometimes, a simple gesture means a lot.

That was the principle behind Kent State University Stark’s Patriots’ Day plans to honor more than 60 first responders who serve the school’s campus on a regular basis.

“We wanted to do something nice for our Jackson Township police officers and firefighters because September is Campus Safety Awareness Month,” said Cynthia Williams, the school’s public relations coordinator. “We wanted to not only to make our students and staff aware that they are being kept safe, because the crime rate around here is incredibly low, but to show our appreciation because that’s due to the diligence of our police officers and firefighters.”

To deliver that messages of thanks, Williams and a team of volunteers passed out 62 boxed lunches made in the campus dining hall. Each lunch contained a submarine sandwich, chips and a bottle of water.

The display was a festive one in the circle around the flag pole near the campus’ Frank Avenue entrance. Williams, several university officials and a contingent of student volunteers set up shop with American flags circling two tables stacked high with the boxed lunches to be given away.

Despite temperatures struggling to reach 60 degrees, the volunteers worked with smiles on their faces and answered questions from passersby who stopped to ask what they were doing.

Less than 15 minutes into the two-hour event, the first vehicle pulled up to the display and out stepped campus security officer Steve Ousley. He shook hands with Williams before picking up lunches for himself and a few colleagues who couldn’t leave their posts to come get their own food.

Moments later, a red Jackson Fire Department vehicle cruised up the driveway with Capt. Gary Martin and Deputy Chief Tim Berczik inside. The duo jokingly asked if there was enough food to quench the hunger of everyone back at the fire station and Williams checked her list to make sure that her number’s matched Martin’s count.

With the help of five student volunteers, Martin and Berczik carried 28 boxed lunches back to their SUV, nearly filling the back seat. A steady flow of first responders followed, including both campus safety workers from KSU Stark and the adjoining Stark State College campus, as well as Jackson Police Department officers.

As the stack of 62 lunches on the table in front of them shrank, the smiles on the faces of those handing them out got bigger. The chance to deliver a personal, tangible thank you to the men and women who help keep their campus safe was a great reward for school officials and students alike.

Williams noted that most of the first responders appreciate the gesture more because they don’t expect or seek such recognition.

The chance give that recognition on Sept. 11 was especially meaningful, with the memories of the 9/11 terror attacks in their minds and the heroic efforts of the first responders who made a tremendous impact that day fresh in the minds of all involved.

“We always do it in September and, this year, we thought it would be most poignant to do it on Sept. 11,” Williams said.

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