For someone who serves (food, too!) the Mt. Juliet community on a daily basis, the very humbled Chick-fil-A owner Ray Daniel was the center of attention for a while at his restaurant Wednesday afternoon.
With a fitting backdrop of dining patrons surprised at the hullabaloo, mobile unit Rehab 23 saluted Daniel for his restaurant's generosity to the more than 500 emergency responders who put their lives on the line to protect our citizens.
Rehab 23's mission is to support first responders from every agency in Wilson County. Daniel, from day one, said Rehab 23 President and Director Lt. Scott Lorden, has been there to provide nourishment for responders at the scene of emergencies across the county. That's been since mid-summer 2013. Lorden's also a lieutenant at the Gladeville Fire Department. He said it was "way past time" to recognize the Mt. Juliet Chick-fil-A for coming to the aid with nourishment to those who come to the aid of local citizens in their greatest time of need.
Lorden said there are about 35 volunteers at the Rehab 23 program who have been to dozens of emergency scenes to provide first responders with things such as water, cool towels, nourishment and much more.
Daniel and his staff, in turn, show up regularly with containers filled with their delicious chicken and cool drinks. Daniel also sponsors a popular antique/hot rod car show at his place during the summer and recently hired the first known professional musician to provide live music in the franchise.
Kenny Beard, a prolific song writer and singer, said Daniel approached him about the idea of him providing entertainment and said this type of outside-the-box mentality is what makes the Mt. Juliet chicken restaurant so special. He plays a variety of music from gospel to Eric Clapton.
"The Chick-fil-A in Mt. Juliet has been there for us from day one," Lorden said. "They don't want any recognition for what they do for us. It's natural for them, but then Ray Daniel is known for his support of his community."
Daniel quietly appears at many local functions, with his donated chicken and biscuits. Lorden said in the next few weeks Rehab 23 will also salute the Lebanon Chick-fil-A for their generosity and outreach to the organization he founded. In one instance, he arrived at the scene of a house fire and realized there needed to be some support to the professionals fighting a serious fire for a long time. He said he was amazed and happy the unit is going so strong.
"Ray Daniel has been so supportive, any time we ask and on more times we didn't. This is our way to show we appreciate what he and his staff do for us," he said.
Just before he was handed the appreciation plaque - with his right hand employee Paula Bussell by his side - Daniel quietly told The Wilson Post it's the Chick-fil-A philosophy to give to their communities and reach out in a number of ways. He said it's his personal philosophy as well.
"It's our way to partner on a lot of things and get involved, I'm so honored to have the opportunity to support our first responders," Daniel said. "We are the ones blessed from all the support from this community."
It's somewhat full circle in his mind. He opened his restaurant at Providence Marketplace 10 years ago, and it's still one of the most popular restaurants in a sea of restaurants in the booming South Mt. Juliet area.
Fire Department of Mt. Juliet Chief Jamie Luffman made sure he was there to honor Daniel and his team.
"The unit is a wonderful tool to have," he said.
He's personally received such things as coffee and licorice strips during an operation.
"Back in the day we had to send someone from the scene for water and such. And now this truck comes and supplies us nourishment."
Not to mention also great chicken from Daniel.
"I love Rehab 23's association with Chick-fil-A and Ray Daniel and Paula," Luffman said in a short speech Wednesday. "They come to me and ask how they can help. It's priceless, and we appreciate it."
Rehab 23's Vice President Linn Yeager was all smiles as he was flanked by dozens of volunteers at Chick-fil-A.
He noted one past operation Rehab 23 helped support. It was a drowning operation July 16-18, 2013, in Lebanon. For three days the unit was located at Hunters Point boat ramp off Hwy. 231 North. They provided more than 30 people with water and nutrition. Today Rehab 23 responds to eight agencies across the county, and no doubt, you will see a Chick-fil-A van drive up as well.
Lorden's goal was to get a unit on the east side of the county, and that happened about six months ago. It's housed at the Lebanon Fire Station on Lebanon Road. The Mt. Juliet unit is stored at FDMJ Station 1.
Recently Rehab 23 provided support at the strip mall fire in Mt. Juliet, as well as several house fires, among other incidences. They also dispatch to other counties if needed and arrive during various training exercises across the county.
Lorden's biggest need right now is more volunteers from the east side of Wilson County.
"It's just great to recognize Ray Daniel and his team today," he said.