Neighborhood honors first responders with cookout
by Margaret Hurlbert
November 16, 2020

MUSCATINE, Iowa–After hearing an Oscar Mayer commercial encouraging neighborhoods to hold front yard cookouts on May 2 to connect while socially distancing, Matt Starkweather liked the idea and thought about bringing it up to his neighbors on Wier Street. A close knit community, Starkweather knew how much people enjoyed doing things together. Then, he came up with a more ambitious idea. He elaborated, “I thought, why don’t we invite first responders and EMS too?” Starkweather shared his plan, and he and his neighbors organized it into a fun event to safely celebrate the challenges first responders face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Wier Street neighbors prepared for the first responder cookout, everyone pitched in. Ann Armstrong, Chet and Rhonda Ayers, Kay and Ron Brunk, Rachel and Thad Burkamper, Peggy Gordon, Cindy and Russel Hake, Kacey Martin, and Denny and Sherry Morgan all pitched in with donations of money or food for the cookout. Many even baked homemade desserts and snacks for the first responders to enjoy after their meal.

Amber and Rob Wittmer, along with their two children, seven-year-old Harper (who currently holds the Little Miss Pearl City crown) and three-year-old Jude, cooked and served hot dogs for the event and staffed a table of chips, water, and desserts for first responders to choose from.

The Heinz factory in Muscatine graciously donated condiment packets for the first responders to use without having to worry about spreading germs between each other. “We really appreciated that,” said Starkweather.

The evening of May 2 proved beautiful, and members of the Muscatine County Medical Examiner’s Office, Muscatine County Sheriff’s Department, Muscatine Fire Department, and Muscatine Police Department all attended. “We probably had 20 to 25 show,” up recalls Starkweather. Overall, the evening provided good food and a safe social time for those working to keep Muscatine County safe, especially during this time of crisis. The event also allowed neighbors to thank these public servants for all they do.

Pleased with the turnout at the cookout, Starkweather felt glad to honor those serving on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially because he has worked as an emergency medical technician himself: “It was amazing. I was an EMT for seven years, so I can relate somewhat to what they’re going through.”

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