First responders are in the hearts of many as this COVID-19 pandemic holds the country in its grasp. Firefighters and paramedics in the North Bay got a treat earlier this month, when a private business, Park Avenue Catering, and First Responders Resiliency, Inc. (FRR), a nonprofit dedicated to eradicating PTSD through science-based strategies, joined forces.

Bruce Riezman, owner of Park Avenue Catering in Cotati, loves feeding his community. “We’ve always had a large community give-back policy, everything from my team volunteering at Redwood Empire Foodbank, to food, cash and in-kind donations to local nonprofits. Every Thursday for 7 years now, we’ve provided food for thirty, through Social Advocates for Youth. Giving back is just a part of what we do.”

With the shelter-in-place order, Riezman wanted to do something to keep his staff active and to serve the community at the same time. He spoke to some friends in the nonprofit world. He came up with the idea for Park Avenue Catering to produce fresh meals at a reduced price.

Riezman explained, “That way, a company or individual can buy 100 meals for $1,000 to provide to nonprofits or hospital staff. Right now, we are doing 600 meals a week. We could be doing 6,000 meals a week. Clover recently purchased 200 meals that they sent down to Petaluma Valley Hospital. When I was introduced to Susan Farren, Founder and Executive Director of First Responders Resiliency, she felt it would be a great gesture to deliver meals to the fire departments and ambulance drivers, those first responders, who might otherwise be missed, but who should be appreciated and helped and thanked.”

Susan Farren said, “A donation from a grateful citizen to Park Avenue Catering allowed us to deliver 120 pre-made meals to volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel who are working day and night to keep us safe!”

While COVID-19 looms large in our daily lives, first responders are not losing site of the other dangers this area will face in the coming year. As of April 30, 2020, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, a total of 888 fires have burned 1,482 acres already.

Farren is intimately familiar with the toll living on the front lines can take on individuals. A graduate of the Stanford paramedic program, Susan served in both the private and public sectors as a paramedic, supervisor, operations manager, peer counselor, clinical manager, EMS educator and consultant. She understands the ravages of PTSD. FRR’s mission is to decrease stress and enhance resiliency in first responders, through a program created for first responders, by first responders, and dedicated to the psychological and physical wellbeing of those who are serving, or have served, in the industry. Visit https://resiliency1st.org/