Often the food gets cold, gifts go unclaimed and volunteers outnumber the guests of honor. At first glance, the gestures seem unappreciated. A deeper dive into police culture revealed lessons for future efforts.
If your family, church or organization is interested in reaching out to first responders, Captain Green recommends:
- Portability: Box lunches or individual containers are better for officers than a sit down event. When they gather, in one place, a part of the city / town is left attended. Relaxing enough to eat can be difficult. Their radios may be turned high enough to monitor emergency calls, causing well-meaning volunteers to compete for attention. Offering food they can take with them on patrol and eat when they have a free moment works better.
- Safe Access: If your event is in a city the police patrol by sectors, an event in each sector is advised. In Lansing, for example, officers patrol two sectors: north and south. If a northern church does an event, southern officers may not leave their sector for food, fellowship and a gift. Partnering with local police to match offerings to distribution of officers will increase turn out. Planning after finding out where officers will be, may help everyone feel the cheer.
- Accessibility: Place the event on a well patrolled street. How will you know which street works? Ask first responders for the two or three possible intersections that will maximize turnout. The down side is their answers might not work for the building you had in mind. The up side is that their choices may help you make new friends with whom to work. A great church may be off their beaten path. Ask before choosing where to scramble the eggs.
Reaching out to public servants to let them know how much you appreciate them is a great idea. Including them in planning may help make your event even greater.