'Give a Cop the Bird' to help out at holiday

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WESTBROOK — While patrolling the streets and answering calls, Westbrook Police see many people in the community in need. Next weekend, the force will team up with Shaw’s and the Westbrook Food Pantry to make sure families have a good Thanksgiving meal.

The event, Give A Cop the Bird, will take place Saturday, Nov. 17, and Sunday, Nov. 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Shaw’s parking lot at Westbrook Landing shopping plaza, 17 Main St. Police will be collecting turkeys and other Thanksgiving staples, such as  potatoes, yams, squash, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, butter, carrots, peas and assorted nuts and pies.

The event is modeled after a similar event in Branford, Connecticut.

“I saw it last year and decided to create our own event for Westbrook. With the level of community engagement my officers and civilian staff members have done and continue to do, it was easy to find volunteers who want to get involved with the event in some manner,” Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts said in an email to the American Journal.

Events like Give A Cop the Bird build “familiarity, understanding and trust” between the police department and the community, Roberts said.

“Community events are great ways to connect with a large number of people in a short amount of time,” Roberts said, “and providing meals for some of our more vulnerable community members is the right thing to do.”

Through the help of the school department, Community Policing Coordinator Megan Perry and Facebook suggestions, the police department is collecting names of potential recipients with the goal of delivering meals to 25 to 30 families on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving. 

The deadline to nominate a Westbrook family to receive a food donation is Friday, Nov. 16. To do so, contact Perry at mperry@westbrook.me.us or 329-7764. Suggestions must include the name of the head of household, home address, phone number, number of adults, number of children (with ages) and any food allergies or special food requests.

Food donations will only be accepted at the event, but monetary donations in the form of a check (made out to Westbrook Food Pantry with “Give a Cop the Bird” in the memo line) can be brought to the Westbrook Public Safety Building at 570 Main St. anytime.

Store director Jim Mikkelsen said the supermarket has held, or helped out with other fundraising events, but this is the first time the business has partnered with the police department for a Thanksgiving food drive.

Aside from Thanksgiving food, members of the public are encouraged to come to the event and donate other food items for the pantry. Items like peanut butter, soups, canned tuna, canned/dried fruit, canned vegetables and beans, pasta, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti or tomato sauce, cereal and canned meat are particularly needed.

Westbrook Food Pantry Director Jeanne Rielly said the pantry provides food for approximately 300 families a month, and need increases in November and December. The pantry, which is open Tuesdays from noon to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m, works closely with the Community Police Center on Brown Street, the Neighborhood Resource Hub on Revere Street and the food pantries at Westbrook High School and Westbrook Middle School, to address food insecurity in the community.

A number of local businesses also hold events this time of year to make sure families are fed throughout the winter. Food gift boxes sold at Hannaford will be given to families next month and food drives are underway at Lee Collision. The pantry also relies on food drives at Westbrook schools, Sappi and Evergreen Credit Union, as well as at Shaw’s, Panera, BJ’S, Baker’s Bench and Phoenix Welding to keep their shelves full of donations.

“Westbrook is a very generous, caring city,” Rielly said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

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