gloria dela merced pedro espinoza jason smith gilroy police department st louise regional hospital
St. Louise Regional Hospital Executive Gloria Dela Merced speaks with Gilroy Police Chief Pedro Espinoza (left), Capt. Jason Smith and others during a small gathering to thank first responders on Oct. 28. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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Staff from St. Louise Regional Hospital traveled to more than a dozen police and fire stations around South County Oct. 28, thanking first responders for their never-ending work.

The annual recognition centers around National First Responders Day.

At the Gilroy Police Department, hospital staff unloaded boxes of fruit and candy from their vehicles and into an overflowing wagon, where they met with officers at the front steps to thank them for their service.

St. Louise Regional Hospital Executive Gloria Dela Merced said this is the sixth year that hospital staff have organized such an event. In previous years, the hospital would host a barbecue for first responders and their families, but with the last two years of Covid-19 restrictions, the event has scaled down to personal visits.

Multiple groups made the rounds throughout Gilroy and Morgan Hill to visit with police officers and firefighters.

“We are very happy we are able to do this,” Dela Merced said.

The appreciation event began after the 2016 Loma fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which threatened communications equipment for St. Louise Regional Hospital. Firefighters and hospital staff were able to transport a generator to Loma Prieta to keep things operational, according to the hospital.

That year, after fire season ended, hospital staff hosted a barbecue celebration to thank the firefighters for their efforts. In the following years, it grew to include all first responders, including police officers and paramedics.

Gilroy Police Chief Pedro Espinoza thanked the hospital staff for their efforts.

“It’s very meaningful when folks in our community, particularly our partners, take the time to recognize our first responders,” he said.

Espinoza added that the last two years have been challenging for first responders, especially the 2019 Garlic Festival shooting and Covid-19 the following year.

“We’ve been non-stop the last couple of years,” he said. “We didn’t have the opportunity to work from home. Our shop never closed. We had to adapt, but as a profession, we are good at doing that. We adapt, we improvise and we overcome.”

gloria dela merced pedro espinoza jason smith gilroy police department st louise regional hospital
Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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