GLENDALE— Kathy Allen and Lupe Bourden picked up their pasta and salad and left in a flash.
The Glendale police dispatchers had to return to the phones and were unable to linger around police and firefighters who were treated to a catered lunch by the Olive Garden in Glendale on Labor Day.
“We’ve got to get back to dispatch,” Allen said.
The Italian restaurant chain donated and catered lunches to local fire and police offices throughout the nation Monday. It’s one way the company can thank public servants, service assistant Deborah Sanford said.
Restaurant staff brought penne, lasagna, house salad and three different desserts to feed about 100 police and firefighters.
Officers returning from patrol joined police communications, jail, detectives and records staff for lunch. Firemen arrived later in deliberate shifts.
“It’s strategic,” police Sgt. Kevin Hirano said. “We balance service we can provide to the city and there’s a certain number we can’t go below.”
Fire staffing is consistent regardless of the day, Battalion Chief Tom Propst said.
“It’s part of the schedule, but on days like today, with businesses closed, activity is slower … but there’s still more opportunity to respond to traffic incidents,” he said.
Lunch was a nice break for his 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift, Officer Shaun Carlson said.
“We’re fortunate to get this meal,” Carlson said. “Sometimes we can stop for a bite, but it’s all dictated by calls for service.”
And holidays usually work out evenly in time, Hirano said.
“When people sign up for the job, they know they’ll be working holidays,” he said. “It balances off, though.”
A quiet day for firefighters meant more time for training and exercise. Some battalions rehearsed their ladder and hose skills, while another team was up in the hills training for future blazes, Propst said.
Police officers said there were no fears that a hearty lunch or food coma would slow them down later.
“The nature of the job prevents that,” Hirano said.
And Larry Ballesteros, vice president of the Glendale Police Officers Assn., said the lunch added a tremendous shot of morale.
“The community comes out and offers lunch, it’s kind of a thank you, which we appreciate,” he said. “A lot of guys don’t get thanked enough.”