Dundee Fire Department Receives Food, Donations during Visit from Culpepper Cardiac Foundation
by James Coulter
The Dundee Fire Department staff received a pleasant surprise visit last Friday with food and donations provided to them by volunteers from the Culpepper Cardiac Foundation and other guests.
Melanie Brown Culpepper, founder of the non-profit organization, paid a visit to the fire department last week. She delivered homecooked food prepared by Pastor Bobby Williams from Freedom Tour Church in Lake Wales.
Melanie spent her time at the fire department visiting with the two fire staff members, Chief Jospeh Carbone and fire fighter/EMT Cody Fowling, who was also a close personal friend of hers. She shared with them her organization’s mission, which is to raise funds and awareness for heart health within Polk County.
During her visit, Melanie was also accompanied by visitors from out of town. They also spent time talking with the firefighters and touring the museum. They even purchased some breast cancer awareness shirts and provided a generous donation to the fire staff.
Chief Carbone appreciated the visit, both from Melanie and the out-of-town visitors. Whenever people from within and outside the community show their support to local fire staff, it helps make their job feel all the more worthwhile, especially during these uncertain times, the Chief said.
“It’s nice to be appreciated,” Chief Carbone said. “Whether they bring us food or cookies or say thank you, it is incredible for us. Especially in today’s society where everybody is all about me, to have people out there who still care about each other. We are so appreciative of what other people do.”
Melanie Brown Culpepper started her organization, the Culpepper Cardiac Foundation, last year. She named it after her late fiancée, Michael Culpepper, who passed away from cardiac arrest despite the best efforts from EMT.
Since then, she has dedicated her life to raising funds and awareness for local fire fighters and EMTs. She raises proceeds for scholarships for EMTs and fire fighters, and the installation of four AEDs within the Winter Haven area.
Melanie has raised these proceeds through many charity fundraisers, from pool and fishing tournaments to races. She has also been making deliveries to various fire stations across the county to cities like Winter Haven, Lake Wales, and Haines City.
“What keeps me going is the drive in me to support the firefighters and EMTs because they have a lot on their plates that they had to deal with every day, especially with COVID and people getting sick and they have a lot of pressure on them, so I want to be able to support them,” she said.
Melanie also loves to see how each station is unique to each city, with each facility reflecting the overall character of the surrounding community. She hopes to continue visiting every last department in the county. Later this year, she also plans on hosting two events to help feed law enforcement within the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
“Every fire department is unique in their own way, with their own character,” she said. “I love it. I appreciate going to every fire department and seeing different characters of the fire departments themselves. It is nice to go out and see all of the different people and see how they live in their unit. It is very amazing for me…I want to keep feeding every fire department until there is no more in Polk County. It might take me a few years.”
As for her mission to install AEDs throughout the county, Chief Carbone explained that he appreciated the effort. His own city has installed AEDs in public places, but not private institutions like schools or gyms. As such, Melanie is doing good work to ensure that every place has proper safety equipment, he said.
“There is not enough money out there to get AEDs where they need to be,” he said. “So to do something like that is incredible.”