This week, Columbus Division of Police and Franklin Township Police Department officers will hand out gifts of food and bags of treats all across the city, each one decorated with an uplifting note or a sweet picture from a young artist. One hundred Christmas dinner bags will also contain $50 grocery gift cards so that people can make sure that 2020 ends on a positive note, thanks to the Wartel Family Foundation, CME Federal Credit Union, and your incredibly generous donations on Giving Tuesday!
We loved working with Sahara-Columbus at Thanksgiving and were thrilled they wanted to partner with us again this month. This time they truly outdid themselves, donating the following for officers to distribute:
100 bags with Christmas dinner
30 blessing bags for individuals experiencing homelessness
300 (!!) treat bags for kids
50 gift-wrapped gingerbread houses
Officers gathered at the Columbus Police Academy to pick up their goodies and take them back to their precincts (or departments, in the case of FTPD Officer Joe Sheridan). Joining the officers were CPD Deputy Chiefs Tim Becker, Jennifer Knight, and Mike Woods, and Commanders Elrico Alli, Dennis Jeffrey, and Smith Weir, all of whom went with officers to deliver bags.
While we waited to begin, South Linden officer Shawn Lutz mesmerized the children of Sahara-Columbus by answering every question they asked him about his policing and generally telling them what his job is like. It was incredibly cute. They showed no signs of getting bored, so we eventually had to interrupt so we could get things back on schedule. (We need to make sure they get some Books & Badges readings ASAP!)
As we doled out the bags, treats, and boxes, the officers were astonished at how much they were receiving. One crew had to leave part of their items behind and come back after they'd given out some bags--they simply didn't have room for it all! Officer Lutz was thrilled to not only have enough for his shift, but mid-watch, which oversees a wider area of the city, and even the overnight shift known as "C Company" to hand out as well.
Chief Knight, Ofc Taylor White, and Starfish volunteer Suzanne Maginn went to houses in the Hilltop. One of their bags went to a mom of six kids who had been rear-ended by a hit-skip driver last week. She was so grateful to receive the bag and gift card that she began to tear up.
Chief Becker, Ofc Dan Snyder, and Starfish President Nicole Banks headed to 11 Precinct (South Central Columbus), where they not only handed out several bags, but they got to stop by and see Biancamya Griffin, KenKen's mom, who donated cupcakes to Ofc Snyder's precinct. Ofc Snyder did not offer any cupcakes to Starfish, and we're curious to know how many actually made it back to the substation. Hmmm...
In the Wedgewood area of Columbus, Chief Woods, Ofc Sean Taylor, and Starfish volunteer, Jack Carlin, delivered a few bags that were on Ofc Taylor's list, then they set to playing Santa. Chief Woods was very good at this. He'd ask people on the street a few questions, and if they said they didn't need any help, he'd ask if they knew someone who did, then they'd go deliver a bag to the house they said. This resulted in a lot of joy. They also stopped by a church group who was conducting a drive and asked about people in the area in need of assistance, and went to where they told them to go.
But the best place might be the house that had a sign up reading, "Special Delivery: To Santa." It looked like a letter to Santa, and got the officers' attention. They decided to stop and be Santa for them.
The mom of the house was so grateful and happy to see the trio that she nearly cried. She'd had a really hard year, she explained, suffering through the deaths of several family members, and wouldn't be able to have a Christmas, so the food and gift card would really come in handy.
When Chief Woods, Ofc Taylor, and Jack relayed this story to us back at the Academy, we all decided to use Starfish funds to give them a better Christmas. So, they quickly purchased a $250 store gift card and a Christmas card, which they all signed, and returned to her home.
She was completely overcome by this additional gift and told her kids that she'd be able to buy them specific items they were hoping for thanks to the police officers. (Thanks to our donors for letting us be able to act immediately on these types of things. It was very special, and we're grateful to you for making it happen.)
Finally, as you can see from the pictures, the officers from Franklin Township were busy handing out their bags today as well. It's been a great day for officers across the city, and there is no way all the bags were distributed today. In fact, tomorrow Chief Becker is taking some to his Homicide detectives so they can give some out as well.
Thank you to Sahara-Columbus for giving us this opportunity and to the Wartel Family Foundation, CME, and our Starfish donors for making not just the $250 gift card, but $5,000 (!!) worth of gift cards possible. We deeply appreciate you.