A family in Jenison hosted a Christmas Eve dinner Sunday for emergency workers to thank them for responding to multiple calls for service at their home in 2017.

"They have been here in the past, and it's just been an awful, horrible event for them," said Richard Black, 71, who has needed emergency service seven to eight times for his seizure disorder over the last two years. "Those are the folks that I have my life to depend on and thank for."

In between calls for service on Christmas Eve, first responders from Ottawa County Life EMS and the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department stopped by the Black's for a buffet dinner in their honor. The family served an ambulance-themed red and blue jello for dessert.

"It was a labor of love," said Debra Black, Richard's wife. "They're a wonderful group of people. We're on a first-name basis, and it goes much more than just a house call."

The Blacks have gone out of their way to open themselves up to and stay in contact with first responders, said Deputy Dan Fetkenhour of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.

First responders don't typically get a chance to develop relationships with patients, said Ottawa County Life EMS Field Supervisor Aaron Schut.

"A lot of times, in our business, we don't have the follow-up," Schut said. "We don't get to see people after we transport them to the hospital because it's so busy. We just kind of have to go on to the next call. So [building] a relationship with people like this, I think, is really, really important."

They left for calls, but had smiles on their faces while they were here, Richard said.

"It will make tomorrow's celebration of Christmas Day even more special – probably more special than any I've had in my entire life," he said.

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