Austin-area first responders get free lunch courtesy of Olive Garden

Sarah O'toole with the Lakeline "Olive Garden" restaurant says Cedar Park firefighters helped her family out during a tough time.
Her home burned in 2013.

"I woke up to what I thought was a squirrel in the wall.  And I told my husband, 'Hey we're going to need to get this!'  And as soon as I turned to his side, realized that wall was on fire so we quickly got out of the house," O'toole said.

They lost everything...well almost everything.
O'toole says after the fire, Cedar Park firefighters asked if there was anything they could try to find for them in the rubble.

"I said 'My son's trophies.'  And by God they came out and just had like an armful of soccer, of basketball...and to my 14-year-old son, that was his world," O'toole said.

It's this kind of interaction with first responders that makes delivering free food to them every year a happy occasion for O'toole.
Serving lunch to first responders like firefighters and police officers is something Olive Garden has been doing at their restaurants across the country every Labor Day for the past 14 years.

"A way that we show our appreciation to those that don't get Labor Day off normally," said Lakeline Olive Garden GM Steve Mathews.

Mathews helped his employees pack up lunches to take to four Cedar Park fire stations. The meal included salad, lasagna and even some tiramisu.
Firefighter Brad Moore was appreciative.

"Emergency services just doesn't stop because of it being a holiday.  So we're here 24/7 and the graciousness of Olive Garden, they were willing to bring by food and drop off lunch.  It's a really nice gesture to have somebody think of you to do that on a day like this," Moore said.

In an age when police across the country have come under attack, more people all the time are wanting to say "thank you."

"This is the way that we're supposed to say 'thank you' and whatever it is that they need, we should be there for them.  Just like they're there for us," O'toole said.