Beginning on May 30, Starfish President/Founder, Nicole Banks, and Starfish volunteer, Ashley Casuccio, volunteered for a total of 87 hours over five days in support of Columbus Division of Police officers working the riots and protests. It started with a few texts between Nicole and Ashley that Saturday morning, with Ashley, who's married to CPD Officer and Starfish Board Member Pete Casuccio, saying the officers needed snacks. CME Federal Credit Union, and Starfish supporters Kimberley Cowie and Suzanne Priore immediately donated money towards the venture, and off to Costco the two went.
Along the way, they heard from Ofc Dan Snyder, who said what the officers really needed was hot dogs. Ashley said they could easily cook them up on an electric grill, and her neighbor later advised them to boil them in a roaster as well. Thanks to Deputy Chiefs Tim Becker and Mike Woods, Operation Hot Dog was given the go-ahead, and 1,344 hot dogs were purchased. Ashley and Nicole bought every bun Costco and Aldi had (and most of Aldi's bread, too), along with a ton of snacks, in order to keep the officers of Columbus fed.
While they were making arrangements for Operation Hot Dog, Ofc Snyder called to inform them that the protesters had taken control of I-670. It was a tough day for the city, and before it was over, a curfew would be enacted, the National Guard would be called out, and Nicole and Ashley would be feeding the National Guard major, the Franklin County Sheriff's Office representative, and the state troopers who came in to support CPD.
When the first CPD officers came into the hospitality room they were tired and hungry. Many of them had bruises from objects being thrown at them. But many of them also stopped in their tracks in awe of the spread laid out in front of them, oftentimes taking their phone out to snap pictures.
Being there on Saturday meant Nicole and Ashley were there during some very turbulent times, and the riots that surrounded CPD HQ that night were at times unsettling. The injuries the officers showed them were even more so. In fact, Ofc Snyder had to go to the hospital that day for a riot-related injury, but was able to immediately return to duty. However, another officer Starfish works with is still off duty due to an injury he sustained from a rock during the riots.
CPD was so grateful to have Starfish there. Many times an officer would leave, then quickly return just to make sure to say thank you. There were never any complaints about anything (not even when they ran out of mustard for a day, which is REALLY bad when you're serving hot dogs!). There were a lot of, "In case no one has told you--THANK YOU. We really appreciate you being here." But the officers always thanked them. They've never seen people more grateful.
After the first weekend, other groups stepped in to feed the officers (and there were donations constantly being dropped off from different sources--lots of support out there!). The hot dogs were quickly replaced with more high end eats from other groups, and Nicole and Ashley's role moved into one of just helping as needed. We know there are thousands of you who would have liked to have been part of this. As you can see, this wasn't planned. We didn't even invite the members of the Starfish Board of Directors to participate, or volunteers who have been with us since our founding. It was just Nicole and Ashley, but they tried to represent you well, and they were very proud to be there on your behalf.
(All of the photos except the final three were taken by Nicole Banks. We don't know who to credit for the photos of the 138 wagon. The last photo, of the rocks, are all items that were thrown at Ofc Ed Chung during the riots.)