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Lake Wales
Monday, July 22, 2024

A Veteran Keeled Over Dead. Now This Lake Wales VFW Has an AED in Case Such an Emergency Arises.


by James Coulter

Jackie Mannie remembers visiting a local American Legion. One of her friends came to the bar. He was barely there for two minutes when he took a shot and fell over.

“Because we did not have an AED, he ended up dying by the time the ambulance came there,” she said.

Since then, not only has an automated external defibrillator (AED) been installed at her American Legion, but also one was recently installed at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2420 in Lake Wales.

“The fact we now have a defibrillator is great,” Mannie said. “It feels safer, absolutely, I am glad it is in both places [the VFW and American Legion].”

Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, a local non-profit organization headed by Melanie Brown Culpepper, donated and installed their 32nd AED at the Lake Wales VFW on Wednesday evening.

Phil Lefstead, an engineer with Polk County Fire Rescue, had contacted Melanie about installing an AED at the VFW post. He had been contacted by its Commander, Joe Settle, six months ago about purchasing an AED for their facility.

Lefstead had seen Melanie donate AEDs to several local eateries, so he contacted her about donating an AED to the Lake Wales VFW.

“I think it is a great cause,” he said. “So, I contacted her and the rest is history. I think her organization is great. If she can supply communities with AEDs, it makes our jobs as firefighters a lot easier.”

Settle had been a commander at the VFW for 31 years and counting. Since his post could have never afforded such a necessary emergency device, especially considering the older age range of their organization, being able to receive one for free was nothing short of a gift.

“It is a great cause,” Settle said. “I wish we could have given her [Melanie] money [as a donation], but right now, we are tight. If she wants to host a fundraiser here, she is more than welcome to have one.”

Melanie started her organization three years ago following the untimely death of her late fiancée, Michael Culpepper. He had passed away from cardiac arrest, despite the best efforts of first responders to revive him.

Not wanting anyone else to suffer a similar fate, she started her organization to raise proceeds to donate AEDs across the county. Since then, she has donated more than 30 to local establishments like Caribbean Bay, Tanner’s Lakeside, and Old Man Franks.

Melanie will be visiting a hospital in Brandon for a special presentation on Tues. Feb 13. She will also be donating AEDs to the Ritz Theater and Barrel 239 in Winter Haven.

For more information, visit the Culpepper Cardiac Foundation Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/honoringculpepper

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