PINEVILLE, N.C. -- "Tomorrow might be a diet day," said Jason Klemowicz, chief deputy at Pineville Volunteer Fire & Rescue, who had eaten a dozen cookies by lunch.

June 2 would have been the 22nd birthday of Klemowicz's former fellow firefighter, Richard Sheltra.

Sheltra died on April 30, 2016, while fighting a fire at golf store on Pineville-Matthews Road.

"He gave his life doing what he loved," recalled Klemowicz. "He was just a guy who wanted to do better in the community."

But Sheltra was more than a son, brother and firefighter.

Photo via Evan West/NBC Charlotte.

"They used to call him the 'Cookie Monster,'" Klemowicz giggled. "He loved chocolate chip cookies."

Last year, Sheltra's family & friends gave away cookies to first responders on Sheltra's 21st birthday. It started as a grassroots movement on Facebook and exploded into all 50 states and five other countries.

Strangers even jumped in on the cookie-kindness.

Michael Sheltra, Richard's Dad, says the chocolate chip cookies are more than just a memory-maker or morale booster.

"A lot of times, it's a very thankless job," said Michael, who's a former firefighter. "These people are trained, trained, and trained to get out of bed at the drop of a hat to come help you."

It's a sweet way to pay tribute and recognize first responders, whose job is much more "fulfilling" with cookies to eat.

"On June 2, we usually eat lunch, dinner, and our midnight snack with some cookies," said Klemowicz.