BRADENTON -- Amy Goad, wife of The Rev. Andy Goad of Evangel Baptist Church on Lorraine Road, has called 911 several times when her husband's sugar level plunged.
"I am a diabetic for 33 years and I have an insulin pump," the 46-year-old Goad told his congregation Sunday. "But there have been times at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning when I am drenched in sweat and unresponsive and Amy has called them to come save me. First-responders have come from the East Manatee Fire Rescue's Rye Road station to my house. I am thankful they come. Amy is thankful. They have been gracious and kind."
Goad, whose busy church in Lakewood Ranch last year celebrated its 10th anniversary, decided to it was time to thank Manatee County first-responders of all stripes with a church service in their honor and a First-Responders Community Day.
The thanking part came during the 10:30 a.m. Sunday service.
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Goad said prayers for the first-responders and their families who send their loved ones out to battle fires, fight crime, fly accident victims to the hospital and race to bomb threats.
"For that spouse, they don't know what will go on," Goad said. "There is stress and emotion."
Of first-responders, Goad said: "They have no idea what they will face. They don't flip a coin to see if they will go or not go. They go."
The pastor hinted first-responders are Christ-like in that they: "don't care, rich or poor, race or age, they go right in and rescue the perishing and care for the dying. They run to the trouble and don't run away."
Church member Stan Skriloff performed "Amazing Grace" on the flute for the first-responders and the church choir soulfully sang a number of hymns.
The free First-Responder Community Day is scheduled 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on the church grounds, 3605 Lorraine Road, and will feature a fire engine, patrol
car, ambulance and a helicopter along with first-responders from East Manatee Fire Rescue, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Forest Service.
A Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation official will bring animals and Smokey the Bear will be on hand.
Goad urged all church members to take a lesson from the unpredictableness of the first-responders' lives and start each day telling their loved ones: "I love you and you are important to me."
Among the first-responders present was Troy Toman, fire inspector at East Manatee Fire Rescue, who attended Sunday's service in his dress uniform.
Toman's wife, Nancy; his father-in-law, Art Cooper; and sister-in-law, Susan Soler, were all there to support him.
Steve Roberts and his wife, Melissa, attended. Roberts works with Venice Fire Department and lives in Myakka City.
Jonathan Longabach, a forestry pilot with the Florida Forest Service, who flies his Piper Archer into heavy smoke from wildfires in Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties, was recognized along with his wife, Julie; and children, Jared, 17; Jaclyn, 12; and Janie, 4.
"We're proud of what our dad does," said Jaclyn, a Haile Middle School student and a ballerina.
"My job is to fly all around the fire and report the activity in on my call sign, 'Forestry 34,' " Longabach said.
"We aren't as affected as others but he is flying and he is certified to fight fires on the ground if needed," Julie Longabach said of her husband's danger level.
Nancy Toman said not a day goes by she doesn't say a prayer when her husband walks out of the door.
"I've always had a strong faith," Nancy Toman said. "I think this is wonderful what the church did with this service and very important."
Roberts said sometimes he and his fellow firefighters will be sitting around talking about how and why they do what they do.
"Why we do what we do is a hard question to answer," Roberts said. "I think our jobs are something we were meant to do."
There will be free hot dogs and drinks for the public at Saturday's First-Responders Community Day, church officials said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.