Photo by Aaron Ricca.
KINGMAN – First responder and medical agencies throughout the county got ‘Christmas in July’ Tuesday.
The Lietz-Fraze Funeral Home sent out more than 200 gift bags packed full of candy, chips, crackers, jerky and a personalized card made their way to hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, police and fire stations in Kingman, Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City.
Funeral Director Krista Gunnoe, along with part-time funeral home employees Danny Garcia and Joey “Lugnut” Buchanan made multiple trips between Golden Valley, Valle Vista and Kingman passing out about 60 of the gift bags to fire stations from Kingman, Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District, Valle Vista as well as the Kingman Police Department, Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and numerous departments at the Kingman Regional Medical Center.
“We do this to say thanks to the agencies we’re in contact with on a regular basis. First responders deal with a lot of stress on the front line, and they don’t always get a ‘Thank You,’” Gunnoe said. “The owner (Kristen Lietz) is all about giving back to the community to show they are appreciated.”
The idea was the brainchild of Lietz, who pays for the goodies, bags and cards out of her own pocket.
“I wanted to make us stand out,” Lietz said. “We want to give back to the communities we serve and show our appreciation.”
On a daily basis, Lietz and her employees deal with first responders, hospital and nursing home employees and, of course, families, when they are in the midst of life’s saddest moments. She’s held fundraisers for veteran causes and each year, delivers roses to local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to couples who have been married for 40 or more years. The tradition started 12 years ago when the funeral home sent out gift bags for Christmas. Lietz tried the ‘Christmas in July’ one summer and it stuck.
“We did it one year and everybody loved it,” Lietz said. “It takes a team to do this. We have a great time doing it and the staff loves it.”
Garcia and Buchanan delivered most of the gift bags Tuesday. One of the last – and largest – stops was KRMC. They made their way up all three floors, dropping of bags for the main desks in departments such as obstetrics, emergency room and pathology. Some were expecting the bags, some not.
“This is very nice,” said Kathy Steck, Medical-Surgical Unit coordinator, as she pried through the stack of assorted munchies.
“Some are surprised,” Buchanan said. “Most are happy.”
“It depends if (the employees) are new or not,” said Lietz-Fraze Funeral Counselor Anna McCool, who was tagging along. “They change shifts a lot. If they are new, it’s an unexpected surprise.”
It looks like Christmas in July is here to stay.
“It has become expected,” Lietz said. “We’re known for it now.”