Shoe drive benefits kids in Police Activities League
Wed., Aug. 3, 2016
Midway through this summer’s Police Activities League, Officer Jen DeRuwe noticed something about the children who came every week to play sports and do other activities with police officers.
“Kids were showing up and didn’t have shoes to wear,” she said.
DeRuwe put out a plea for donations of gently used shoes for the children. The Word of Life Church heard the call and began a shoe drive.
“People went out and bought them,” DeRuwe said.
Nearly 20 children attending the Police Activities League session at Cannon Park received new shoes to wear Tuesday thanks to the church member donations, with more being handed out to participants at other parks.
DeRuwe sees the successful shoe drive as an extension of the work of the Police Department to forge relationships within the community. The Police Activities League runs for six weeks in the summer for potentially at-risk youth in grades 4-8. This year there are sessions held once a week in Cannon Park, Liberty Park and Harmon Park, each with 100 participants signed up.
As part of the program children go swimming, play sports and listen to speakers. Organizers try to teach the core values of honesty, integrity, leadership, sportsmanship and respect, DeRuwe said. Participants can earn tickets with positive behavior and win prizes at the end of the summer.
Meeting children in a positive way and not in a crisis situation helps build relationships between police officers and children who are sometimes taught not to trust police, DeRuwe said.
“It is so amazing,” she said. “I have watched these kids grow up over the last four years.”
DeRuwe said she’s often had a chance to meet and talk to parents and other family members. She said it’s difficult to track results with hard data, but she’s convinced the program works.
“People who would have never talked to us are now talking to us,” she said.
The Police Activities League runs through Aug. 11 and closes with a barbecue for participants and their families on Aug. 18.
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