Morris Baker, Firehouse feed first responders

Becky Campbell • Updated Apr 29, 2020 at 6:14 PM

The parking lot at the Firehouse restaurant might have fooled some people into thinking the establishment was open for business Wednesday.

More than 200 meals were indeed served — but they were all for first responders.

The event was co-sponsored by Morris Baker Funeral Home and the Firehouse restaurant to express appreciation for all first responders in Johnson City and Washington County. The recipients included Johnson City police, Johnson City fire, Washington County/Johnson City 911, EMS, East Tennessee State University police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Johnson City jail and Washington County detention officers.

Officers and office staff were invited to the event. It’s something Morris Baker has done for several years, according to owner Preston McKee. Usually the barbecue lunch is served at the funeral home where first responders can take a few minutes between calls to sit down and enjoy the free meal.

But with social distancing in place, McKee said he called Firehouse to cater the event and run it like a drive-through pick up. Firehouse founder Tom Seaton declined the catering job, but opted to co-sponsor the event.

“This is the fourth year we’re doing a public safety appreciation barbecue,” McKee said. “A big reason we do this is when my grandfather was alive he was named an honorary fireman. When my grandmother died, they fed him and took care of him. He was kinda the unofficial historian for the fire department ... in our family, all first responders are near and dear to our hearts because of how good they were to our family.”

Seaton said he was excited to be part of the event. The Firehouse has been closed for five weeks because of the novel coronavirus but plans on reopening for take-out or curbside service next week.

First responders expressed their appreciation for the food and said it was a thoughtful gesture. Organizers said they would serve at least 225 meals during the event.

“Its a great way to support the first responders,” said Lori Ratliff, fire prevention officer for the city fire department.