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story.lead_photo.caption The Arkadelphia Lions Club First Responder Appreciation Dinner is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Arkadelphia Parks and Recreation Center. Members of the Baptist Health Ambulance Service, from left, Barbara Frazier, EMT; Melina Jenkins, paramedic; and Charles Gosnell, paramedic and supervisor, have all attended previous dinners and hope to do so this year. Among those planning the dinner are Nicole McGough, fourth from left, vice president of business development for Patterson Federal Credit Union; Mark Overturf, immediate past president of the Arkadelphia Lions Club; and Sheryl Strother, a volunteer at the dinner for the past four years. - Photo by William Harvey

ARKADELPHIA — The Arkadelphia Lions Club and Patterson Federal Credit Union will present the Arkadelphia Lions Club First Responder Appreciation Dinner at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Arkadelphia Parks and Recreation Center.

Mark Overturf, immediate past president of the Lions Club, said first responders from throughout Clark County have been invited to attend the event, along with a spouse or significant other. He said organizers expect more than 300 people.

Overturf said first responders include personnel from police, fire and sheriff’s departments; paramedics; emergency medical technicians; foresters; and game wardens working or living in Clark County.

He said the local civic club became involved in the event in 2017.

“Kenneth ‘Sandy’ Sandifer organized this event, and the first dinner was held in 2015,” Overturf said. “In 2016, members of the Lions Club were invited to come and welcome the guests. Then in 2017, he asked us if we would be willing to take over sponsorship of the event.

“We agreed to do it for two years. That was last year and this year. We think we are financially strong enough to do it another year and are hoping we can continue after that.”

Nicole McGough, vice president of business development for Patterson Federal Credit Union, said she was involved as a volunteer at the dinner last year. She is now a member of the Arkadelphia Lions Club and a member of the planning committee for the upcoming dinner.

“Patterson Federal Credit Union wanted to become more involved in it this year,” said McGough, who joined the staff of the credit union in July 2016 after a 16-year career with the Arkadelphia School District. “A lot of our members are first responders in the community. We are excited to be able to give back to them. We have agreed to help finance the dinner and to serve as volunteers.”

Overturf said that although the main focus of Lions Club International is “to stomp out blindness, they have asked the local clubs to reach out to the communities and work on projects that impact the environment and youth, as well as services for the blind.

“So we have expanded our reach. A lot of people in the club are excited about the possibility of helping with this dinner. We want to honor these first responders. We want to tell them how much we appreciate them. They put their lives on the line for us every day.”

The dinner will feature a catered meal, as well as several door prizes, including a 14-foot johnboat from Alumacraft Boat Co. and a variety of gift cards to local businesses.

“We’ve had a lot of support,” Overturf said.

He said at least one personal testimony will be given during the dinner.

“Ritchie and Angela Shields had a fire at their business, Shields Wood Products Inc.,” he said. “They are going to talk about what a quick response they received from the local first responders. They feel that quick response lead to less damage of their property.”

Sheryl Strother, student placement services manager for the Henderson State University Center for Career Development, has been volunteering at the first-responder dinner for four years.

“They all put their lives on the line and work hard every day,” she said. “This is just a small way to say how much I appreciate what they are doing.”

Overturf said the dinner is not open to the public.

“This is just to honor our first responders,” he said.

Members of the Arkadelphia High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps will post the colors at the appreciation dinner. Overturf will serve as master of ceremonies.

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