A 'thank you' for public servants

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County police Officer Robert Rayner usually attends a Lutheran church in Chase.

But when the Baptists in Dundalk are going to pray for him - dedicating an entire Sunday to thanking public servants - well, Rayner said, it seemed like the least he could do was come to the service.

"We always try to attend the Appreciation Day," Rayner said, sitting with his wife in a middle pew yesterday at Calvary Baptist Church.

About two dozen elected officials, firefighters and police officers attended the service, the third annual Public Servant Appreciation Day at the Dundalk church.

"This is probably the most exciting day of our ministry," said the Rev. Cameron Giovanelli. "The congregation loves this. They love saying thank you."

Giovanelli said he also wanted to do more than shake the hands of the public servants or just have them stand for applause. Working with the owner of the Outback Steakhouse in Canton, the church arranged to have $50 gift cards for the public servants.

Why $50? "It's so you can take your mate out," Giovanelli told the officers, paramedics, firefighters and officials. "When you leave for work, many of you don't know whether you'll come home. ... I hope you walk out today feeling you've been loved."

The service was announced in city police roll calls, said Giovanelli. Church members also sent fliers to county police stations and nearby fire stations in the city and county, he said.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. attended the service, where he received a standing ovation by the congregation. David Gibbs III, an attorney who represented the parents of Terri Schiavo, gave the sermon.

Gibbs spoke about the moral issues raised in the legal battle over whether the Florida woman's feeding tube should have been removed in 2005.

But he also spoke about the importance of helping those who cannot help back. It is what the police officers, firefighters and other public servants do, Gibbs said.

A small group of police officers from the city's eastern precinct and another group of volunteer firefighters assigned to Station 15 in Dundalk came in uniform, their radios turned down low but still on, in case they got a call in the midst of the singing, praying and preaching.

The firefighters weren't called during the two-hour service, but some of the city police officers had to leave for a shooting.

The service was a nice gesture, said George Schroen, a member of the Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company.

"It's good to see the community doing this," he said. "It's nice to hear 'thank you.'"


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