On a breezy afternoon, tens of thousands of people celebrated their spring break at the beach. Music blared from sound systems while beachgoers danced, drank and walked from group to group to get in on the action.
While those visitors are welcomed by Port Aransas, the influx of people adds stress to the first responders making sure everything goes according to plan.
“It’s chaos,” said Port Aransas police officer Jason Atwater. “You just move from one situation to the next and make sure everybody’s safe.”
But just a mile away, the community comes together every evening to show first responders how appreciated their work is.
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First responders and their families are invited for a free dinner at the Port Aransas Police Department every day of spring break before they resume their patrol duties.
On Monday, dozens of officers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers stopped by the station for fried chicken, pasta salad, coleslaw, beans and brownies. Mexican food was on Tuesday’s menu.
“We tend to have a lot of comfort food,” said Shirlene Burroughs, wife of Police Chief Scott Burroughs.
By the end of the week, organizer Lisa Cravens said she expected that they will have provided more than 1,000 meals.
“We’re doing so little,” Cravens said. “They’re the ones putting their lives on the line every time they leave.”
The dinners are sponsored by local nonprofit organizations and families. The community has no shortage of generosity, Cravens said.
“I still have a list of people who donated last year who we haven’t even called to help this year,” Cravens said. “They’re our backup list.”
Shirlene Burroughs said the free meals have been provided for years now.
“We depend on outside help and the restaurants are so packed,” Shirlene Burroughs said. “They don’t have time to go to a restaurant and get a table.”
Officers appreciate the hot meal, Atwater said. They are able to relax, take their mind off the job and meet with members of the other agencies that lend a hand during spring break.
“You really need this time to get away and cool off,” Atwater said. “If you’re out there all day without being able to stop, you can’t think straight.”