by James Coulter
Cherry Pocket Steak n Seafood is a quaint little eatery located on the waters of Lake Pierce. The eatery receives a lot of customers, both locals and Northerners. However, while the food and scenery are great, being in the middle of nowhere has its disadvantages.
For one, being located on the far outskirts of Lake Wales, traveling there takes some time. Its far distance from town can prove especially difficult in case of an emergency. Fortunately, this eatery received an automated external defibrillator (AED) to assist them when and if such an emergency arises.
Jody McKeem, the wife of the owner, had reached out to the Culpepper Cardiac Foundation to have an AED installed at their eatery. She previously checked with her insurance agent to make sure using such a device during an emergency would not become a potential liability. Fortunately, the Florida Good Samaritan Act protects against such liability.
“We reached out to have one here because we are out in the middle of nowhere,” Jody said. “It probably takes ambulances and firefighters longer to get here than normal, so it is good to have it and have people trained who can use it. If we can save a life, let’s try it. Hopefully, we never have to use it, but if we do, we have it available for our customers and anyone staying in the park.”
Melanie Brown Culpepper and her team of volunteers arrived at Cherry Pocket on Tuesday evening to install the AED and offer a presentation and demonstration. Eric Seamus, a local EMT, offered the demonstration, while Brian Belike, Melanie’s fiancée, helped install the AED in the eatery’s event room.
The owner, Jed McKeem, had purchased the eatery five years ago. He had experience running other businesses and wanted to see similar success with Cherry Pocket. He is grateful that an AED was installed, as it will help aid in potential emergencies if and when they arise.
“I think it is a great thing to have this device here,” he said. “It is a great program that is going on there. I think it is fantastic.”
Melanie started her organization three years ago following the untimely passing of her fiancée from cardiac arrest. Not wanting anyone else to suffer a similar fate, she started Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation to raise proceeds to donate and install AEDs across the county.
Since its inception, Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation has donated and installed nearly 30 AEDs in local businesses and establishments, including Tanners Lakeside, Old Man Frank’s, and Caribbean Bay. The AED for Cherry Pocket was sponsored by the Sugar Barn, which was a previous AED recipient.
“I think Cherry Pocket is a place that deserves it because they have a lot of people who come out here to eat and it is a small community with a lot of northerners who come down and a lot of older people,” Melanie said. “So, I think it is great for everybody here.”
Melanie hopes to continue raising more funds to install more AEDs across the county and hopefully beyond. She owes her success to everyone who helps make her endeavors possible.
“I always give my success to the community,” she said. “I feel that without all of them, I could not make this happen. It takes a whole team of us to do this, and without them, I could not make this happen, without the sponsors and donations and people coming to my events. That is how we can keep this going.”
Gloria Gregg, an employee and bartender at Cherry Pocket, had known Michael Culpepper in life. She and him had been friends for 25 years. She is glad that an organization dedicated to doing so much good was created in his honor.
“It is a wonderful thing,” Gloria said. “We needed that thing [AED] out here. She [Melanie] has been trying to get it out here for a long time, and we finally got it out here, so that is great.”
To learn more about Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, visit their website at: https://www.facebook.com/honoringculpepper