Villagers thank local workers on front lines

Villagers Dave Payne, left, and Dan Kifner, right, both of the Village of Fenney, stand in front of O’Shucks! Oyster Bar & Grill in Wildwood with owner Annie Noell.

While thinking one evening about the courage of America’s front-line workers, Dave Payne decided to honor and thank local first responders and medical staff.

When Payne realized that he needed help with this big project, he said he knew exactly whom to call.

“Dan was gracious enough to join me in this,” Payne said of Dan Kifner, his friend and neighbor in the Village of Fenney.

After a few minutes of brainstorming, the guys decided that providing a favorite meal of theirs to others was the perfect way to show their gratitude.

The two will have more than 1,100 chicken wings delivered to local first responders and health care workers to thank them for their hard work and bravery.

The wings will be sent in the next week or two to workers at The Villages Public Safety Department, UF Health The Villages and Leesburg hospitals, Wildwood Police Department, Coleman Police Department, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, UF Health The Villages Hospital Freestanding Emergency Room near Brownwood and two local urgent care centers.

The men both said they chose O’Shucks! Oyster Bar & Grill in Wildwood, because it is their favorite restaurant for wings and to support a small local business.

“O’Shucks! has the best wings anywhere,” Kifner said.

Like countless other Americans, both men said they personally know front-line workers who give long hours and risk their own health in an effort to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They said they also know the emotional and physical toll the crisis has taken on the medical workers.

“They just go right in there with no hesitation. I’m not sure I could do that,” Payne said of the of EMTs, firefighters, police officers, nurses and physicians.

Both men are close to people who have been affected by the pandemic.

A longtime friend of Payne’s is a nurse whose love for the medical field led her to enroll in medical school.

When colleagues called on her to assist with COVID-19 patients, Payne said his friend didn’t flinch, either about her schoolwork or personal safety.

Kifner’s son, Dan Kifner III, is in his fourth year of medical school. Like Payne’s friend, Kifner’s son also works incredibly long, stressful hours on the front lines.

“Even with PPE (personal protective equipment), they are still at risk,” Kifner said of medical workers in the back of ambulances, in emergency rooms and intensive care units across the country.

Over the next couple of weeks, Payne and Kifner said they hope deliveries of chicken wings will put smiles on many faces and recipients will be able to grab seats and eat with their co-workers.

Read this story and many others in Thursday’s edition of the Daily Sun.