BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — If you haven’t thanked a first responder lately, now is your time to do so.

The Bay County Chamber of Commerce has declared Friday as First Responder’s Appreciation Day.

The chamber and local businesses paid tribute to their work during the annual luncheon

Panama City Beach Police Chief J.R. Talamantez said having the community show their support in this way is amazing. He said working in an environment where everyone is grateful for their support makes all the difference, and being able to come together is so important. 

“It is good to get everybody together, share a meal, share stories and highlight the amazing things our first responders do every day,” Talamantez said. 

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Three people, in particular, were recognized at Friday’s luncheon for their outstanding work as first responders of the year: Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Division Chief Terry Parrish, Bay County EMS Captain Jessica Lundeen, and Bay County Sheriff’s Deputy Casey Melton. 

Each of these people comes from different agencies but Sheriff Tommy Ford said they are all one team. 

“We’ve been through a lot,” Ford said. “I mean you look at the active shooter events, and the hurricane, and the pandemic. We’ve all become closer through that and we just work seamlessly.”

Sheriff Ford and other leaders said it means so much to feel the support from Bay County residents and be appreciated for their hard work. 

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Bay County Chamber Chairman Christopher Moore said you have to be a dedicated professional to do this job, and it is not just a job it is a calling.  

“Thank a fireman, thank a policeman, thank an EMS tech out there in the field they work hard for you they work hard for all of us,” Moore said. “I guess thankfulness is the biggest piece on that one.”

The chamber has been hosting this luncheon for almost a decade. Members say it is one of their favorite events.