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Picnic to honor first responders still a huge success after more than a dozen years

Red Bank, SC (Paul Kirby) – A picnic that’s held each spring to honor first responders was once again a huge draw and success again Wednesday. The event, put on by Lexington County Councilman Bobby Keisler and the staff and management of Caughman Harman Funeral Home, drew long streams of law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, 911 telecommunications operators, staff members from the coroner’s office, and even members of the court system who work every day to keep our county safe.

The event has been held for 13-years and each year the crowds grow larger. There were 175 take-out plates prepared for shift working emergency crews that couldn’t attend themselves, while a host of others came, sat at the long table set up in Councilman Keisler’s recreational building on the beautiful pond behind his home in Red Bank, and enjoyed the food prepared by a dedicated team assembled by Caughman Harman each year. The cooking is always done by the men and the serving headed up by Keisler’s daughters, a few volunteers, and Steve Steele, Sr., a staff member at the funeral home and a tireless volunteer that can always been found somewhere right in the middle of a project doing something good for someone somewhere.

Guest dined on perfectly slow smoked BBQ chicken, smoked onion sausage links, baked beans, coleslaw, bread, and other deliciously prepared items. There was also a table laden with sweet treats like cookies and cakes for everyone to enjoy. The diners could have tea and water to wash it all down. Every bit of the food was free, a gift from Keisler and the funeral home as their way of thanking the people who keep our community safe.

Ashley Hicks, one of the management staff at Caughman Harman, and Keisler’s son-in-law, said that about 40 cases of chicken pieces were cooked plus the sausages and other items. He said that in the 13 years they’ve held the event, that they’ve always been blessed with beautiful weather and yesterday was no exception. “It was a great day for us to be able to show all these men and women how much we appreciate what they do for your county,” Hicks said. “This is just our way of saying thank you and giving them a way to come and fellowship with one another without all the stress that comes with their jobs.”

Police officers were there from just about every agency imaginable. There were officers from the Town of Lexington, Cayce, South Congaree, Irmo, and West Columbia just to name a few. There were scores of state troopers that came in various wave as well as deputies, SLED agents, DNR officers, court security, and officers of the SC State Transport Police. They took shifts coming so our roads and streets would still be covered.

Additionally, a number of crews from Lexington County’s EMS and fire service came to eat and fellowship, some in small vehicles, some in their ambulances and fire trucks. The director of the county’s 911 center came with help to take back a load of plates to the telecommunicators that couldn’t leave their post at the 911 center in person.

Others of note included Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon and some of his senior staff, the county’s administrator and many of the county council members, a host of staff from the Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Authority, Eleventh Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard and his chief deputy Chris Samellas, several key leaders from the court system, and John Hardee, a fixture on the SC Highway Commission for many years.

When the event was drawing to a close, Todd Caughman, a senior manager at Caughman and Harman and son of one of its founders, said that they planned to continue the event for many more years. “These people do so much every day for all of us. If we can make this one little gesture and give them one afternoon that has good food and a beautiful setting like this to sit, talk, and enjoy some time without all the pressure, we’re going to continue doing that for many more years to come.”

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