In the Thanksgiving season, it is tradition to exhibit appreciation and gratitude toward your friends, colleagues, those you love and those whom you interact with regularly.
While it may be traditional to display gratitude, these acts of recognition and appreciation do not have to be limited to this specific time of the year.
Our essential workers have been thrust into the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the day-to-day challenges of their positions further extrapolated as the number of cases continue to climb.
Barbara Chavez, 68, and the owner of “Moose’s Hot Dogs,” displays her appreciation year-round of Cochise County’s law enforcement and fire departments through personally delivering brownies, cookies, tortillas and her homemade salsa to their stations all around the county.
Members of the Sierra Vista Police Department, Fry Fire Department, Bisbee Fire Department, Whetstone Fire Department and Douglas Fire Department all affectionately call Chavez “Mama Chavez.”
“Everyone loves Mama Chavez. All of our department members really appreciate and enjoy her support,” says Sierra Vista Police Chief Adam Thrasher.
For years, Chavez has delivered goodies, spontaneously surprising the firefighters, police officers and paramedics with a variety of food and desserts.
Battalion Fire Chief Sam Foster of the Whetstone Fire Department noted how Chavez brightens the day.
“When she comes here, everyone lights up. We all stop what we’re doing to go say hello to Mama Chavez,” says Foster.
“It’s a huge moral booster. She’s literally one of our regulars. She’s supporting the guys. It’s nice to have that kind of appreciation because it’s a hard job,” says Fry Fire Chief Mark Savage.
Bisbee Fire Chief George Castillo says, “It means so much from us to receive this gesture from Mama Chavez. She can turn a bad day into a good day.”
Chavez said she was inspired to give back to essential workers from her 35 years working in civil service and seeing first-hand the challenges through the eyes of her son, who was a firefighter in the Sierra Vista area for eight years.
Chavez is from Los Angeles and moved to Bisbee in 1962 after being adopted at the age of 10. Chavez spent the majority of her childhood in Bisbee, moving back to California for her first two years of high school.
Chavez returned back to Bisbee to finish her last two years of school at Bisbee High School and graduated as part of the class of 1971.
Chavez married her husband, Luis Chavez, in 1972. They had three children and raised them in Sierra Vista.
Chavez retired from civil service in 2007 and started Moose’s Hot Dogs. She said one of the main motivations to start her business was to provide her daughter the opportunity to run her own business.
Chavez’s daughter passed away in 2009 from Crohn’s disease. Since her daughter’s passing, Chavez continues to manage her hot dog stand, balancing catering at local events and stationing at the Lowe’s or Home Depot parking lot in Sierra Vista.
Chavez says that she serves Chicago, Sabrett and Sonora-style hot dogs along with nachos covered in chili beans, pico de gallo, salsa and cheese. Chavez says she is the only person who sells the New York Sabrett hot dogs in the Sierra Vista area.
While Chavez has firmly established her position as a humanitarian, generously catering for Toys for Tots, Project Graduation, National Night Out, Sky Island Pickleball Club’s High Desert Classic, Tombstone High School’s JROTC fundraiser events and in helping other aspiring business owners get on their feet.
Retired Sgt. First Class Jack Williams said he’s known Chavez for eight years and said Chavez helped him start his own hot dog stand, “Two Barking Dogs.” Williams said that he met Chavez when her hot dog stand was located outside Lowe’s, noting how he became a regular on his lunch breaks.
“For years, I told her when I retired that I wanted to sell hot dogs,” Williams says. “She pointed me to one of the people she gave a hot dog stand to and I was able to purchase my stand from them.”
In the beginning, Williams said he received direction from Chavez.
“She’s always willing to offer advice, mentorship, and support through the whole nine yards,” he says.
Chavez was also one of the founders of Project Graduation at Buena High School in 1986, a group that organizes a celebration after commencement.
According to Jeanne Sciacca, who taught at Buena for 30 years and was the director of Project Graduation from 1988-98, Chavez has always been a pleasure to work with.
“I’ve known Barbara for like 150 years. She has always been the energizer bunny, she’s the go-to lady,” Sciacca says.
Chavez’s efforts have made many feel a special kinship to her, with some regarding her as part of their families.
“Barbara is one of the greatest people I know. She’s kind, generous, my son considers her a grandmother. I consider her family,” says Williams.
When Chavez was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, members from the Whetstone Fire Department, Sierra Vista Fire & Medical, Huachuca City Fire Department, Bisbee Fire Department, Palominas Fire Department, Fort Huachuca Fire Department, Tombstone Fire Department, Fry Fire Department, Douglas Fire Department and Sonoita-Elgin Fire Department surprised her at Native Grill & Wings with a frame containing patches from all the stations.
“She’s gone through so much, we saw her go through the cancer and that was really difficult to see. The fact that she went through all of that is just incredible,” says Foster.
Many express gratitude of Chavez.
Capt. Matt King, the public information offficer at the Douglas Fire Department, says, “There are very few people whose name you can tell any firefighter and be sure they will know who you are talking about. Mama Chavez is definitely one of them. We can’t thank her enough.”
“The personal nature of Mama Chavez’s recognition of our department members shows us that we have great support in our community for what we do. It helps our officers realize that all the sacrifices they make to serve and protect like working holidays, midnight shifts, missing birthdays and such is appreciated,” says Thrasher.