MARCO ISLAND — The firefighters put on such a good breakfast, even the police showed up.
Oftentimes, there is a lot of friendly rivalry between “the bravest” and “the finest,” but Sunday morning, several uniformed members of the Marco Island Police Department were on hand inside the firehouse next to City Hall, patronizing the Fire-Rescue Foundation’s pancake breakfast.
“It’s really excellent,” said officer George Guyer, sitting with fellow PD members Joe Meek and Jen Lofy. “And a great deal, too.” The police officers might have been in need of nourishment, since the Police Foundation’s Pig Roast, scheduled for the same Sunday, had been canceled.
For six dollars, patrons received “all you can eat” pancakes, scrambled eggs, two kinds of sausage, coffee, milk and orange juice. Marco Island Fire-Rescue Foundation Steve Stefanides, manning the griddle, said, “look how light these are,” lofting one hotcake aloft with his spatula. “These are the pancakes of an angel,” he bragged, presumably referring to the cakes themselves and not the cook.
The hotcakes were selling like, well, hotcakes. With the operation still running as the 12 noon cutoff approached, almost 400 customers had paid to partake.
“Let’s see, that’s 395,” said volunteer Sharon Krohn, wielding a clicker she used to keep track of attendance, while Joan Baptiste handled the cash. “With you, now that’s 396.”
“We’re still expecting the after church rush,” said Fire-Rescue Foundation board member Peter Guerin, dishing up the scrambled eggs. “Business is going to pick up in a few minutes, when the Catholic church lets out.” Sure enough, an influx of well-dressed patrons refilled the lines, and then the tables, even as the firefighters, helped by their friends from the police, were starting to stack up the chairs, turning the dining room back into the garage that holds the fire trucks on San Marco.
Director Jack Patterson, in charge of the coffee and beverage table, also seemed a little overdressed for a short order barista, but explained he had also just come from serving as an usher at church, and had to dress for that role.
The customers included families with children, and the firefighters delighted the youngsters with close-up looks at their trucks and equipment, not to mention free souvenir firehats. Firefighter Chris Bowden demonstrated a pumper truck to Ben and Matthew Tresidder, visiting from Buckinghamshire, England, and let them try holding the nozzle the department uses to extinguish fires.
“The money we raise here helps with the things the department can’t buy for themselves,” said Guerin. “We help cover expenses, like when one of our firefighters had a sick child who had to go to the hospital in Tampa. Insurance covers the medical bill, but we were able to help with the travel expenses, for them to stay up there with him.”
The Marco Island Fire-Rescue Foundation has been holding the pancake breakfast for three years, said Stefanides, and puts them on twice a year.