Law enforcement officers in Illinois took an opportunity to connect with community members by serving a warm and comforting Thanksgiving meal to those in need.
Dozens of police officers dished up 400 pieces of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and a mouthwatering array of desserts for the third annual "Because We Care Thanksgiving Dinner."
The event was organized by Sherrod's Independent Mentoring Program Inc. (SIMP), hosted by Decatur's Good Samaritan Inn, and sponsored by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Decatur Memorial Hospital, and multiple law enforcement agencies, The Herald Review reports.
More than 170 diners showed up to a home-cook meal prepared and served by volunteers.
"The old mindset is we protect and serve and, well, sometimes the serve part is food," said Blue Mound Chief of Police, Chad Lamb.
He added, "It's good to be here seeing the smiles on people's faces and knowing we've helped out in the community. It's a fun day for everybody."
SIMP is run by Dr. Jarmese Sherrod who has made it her goal to foster positive relationships between law enforcement and the community.
"It's about building positive relationships with law enforcement so that people get to know that law enforcement is here to support them," Sherrod said. "And, in fact, to also know that all of Decatur loves them: We've also got volunteers helping out here today as young as middle school students and high school students. So for people who don't have, say, the love and support of family around the holidays, we just want to love on them today with a great meal, and a lot of great desserts."
Gregory Wheeler, Oreana Police Department Chief, explains that the dinner allows the community to see a different side of law enforcement.
"It allows somebody to see us as other than just a uniform," he said. "And it allows people to interact with us without having had a problem."
Sherrod said it was also her goal to have youth involved in the event, giving back, and volunteering alongside police officers.
"Our youth wanted an event where they could work beside law enforcement to restore positive relationships with them but also to keep having positive things going on so that it was something that showed us uniting together that we can do it," she told NowDecatur.com.
She continued, "We need to have positive events like this on a regular basis where we are constantly giving back and showing people that we care. And this is one of the things I love about today."