TOMS RIVER — When a recovering addict footed the breakfast bill for members of the local first aid squad last week, it was a chance to see the battle they wage against the opioid epidemic from a different perspective.

Capt. Alyssa Golembeski said the squad usually visits the IHOP in town at least once a week. When the manager told members their $77 tab had been paid for, and who paid for it, the formerly rowdy crowd coming off of a long night shift was left in stunned silence.

"We're sitting there, we're eating breakfast, we're joking, laughing, having a good time. The manager of the IHOP comes over, he hands me a piece of paper and says your bill has been paid for," she said.

The squad shared the note, signed only by a "recovering addict," on its Facebook page in hopes that the woman would step forward, or at least be recognized for her good deed.

"That immediately shut up all six of us," she said. "We stopped talking and it was just, we were humbled and so grateful and so happy to see someone who had reached recovery who was working a program."

Golembeski said the Toms River First Aid Squad is 100 percent volunteer, and that members don't do their job for the recognition (or the free — but to be recognized by the community made the gift it a special experience. She also said she is not used to the attention the post has brought on the squad, including interviews from television stations as far away as Philadelphia

In the end, she hopes that the squad can use the exposure to shine a light on a glaring problem in Ocean County and across the country.

"Our job is done correctly if nobody notices we were there at all," she said. "We tried really hard to spin the focus onto the fact that addiction is a disease. Addiction is something that affects a massive portion of this country, and in particular Ocean County."

In the days since the Good Samaritan paid for their food the squad captain said it has been mostly business as usual, with maybe a little more good natured ribbing than usual from other squads in the area.

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