EUSTIS, Florida— More than 100 special needs clients and caregivers came out to the Eustis Community Center Wednesday to meet Eustis first responders in the city’s first-ever Public Safety Engagement Day; an event aimed at engaging members of the special needs community with first responders in a relaxed atmosphere.
The event included demonstrations from Eustis Police Department’s K-9 unit and the SWAT bus was on hand for participants to look at. Participants also had an opportunity to hold a shield and try on body armor and check out a fire truck with Eustis Fire Department.
Numerous firefighters and officers were on hand interacting with visitors while they enjoyed a hotdog lunch, in addition to EPD Chief Craig Capri and two members of his command staff and EFD Chief Michael Swanson and Deputy Chief Scott Davis.
Capri told Inside Lake it was a great turnout and there was “a bunch of hugs and a lot of love.” The event was a great opportunity to introduce first responders to the special needs community and “knock down barriers,” he said.
Mayor Michael Holland was also in attendance, along with City Commissioners Willie Hawkins and Nan Cobb.
“The special needs community often gets overlooked,” Hawkins told Inside Lake, and he spearheaded this event to help change that, he said. He reached out to several group homes in the area and invited caregivers and clients to come to the two-hour event and plans to make it an annual event in the future.
Holland is very supportive of the event and said he believes Eustis is the first city to sponsor an event of this nature.
“So often we’re quick to react when something happens in the community. We want to show the community Eustis is at the forefront. (The special needs community) is part of the population that is overlooked. That stops here.”