Wilton Police have placed a strong emphasis on community outreach and involvement in town, implementing programs like “Coffee with a Cop” and “Stroll on Patrol” to interact more with Wilton residents, “Stuff a Cruiser” events to collect donated toys for children or food for those in need, and “Tip a Cop” to raise money for Special Olympics. But what might be less well known is that they often extend their activities outside of Wilton in just as generous a way.
Most recently, several Wilton officers took part in an event called “Shop with a Cop,” a program run by the REACH Foundation during the holidays to provide underserved children with a fun night out and the chance to choose gifts for themselves, family and friends. On the day of the event, uniformed officers from several local and state offices volunteered their time to be with the children at a Milford bowling alley. After the fun there, the children were part of a police procession on their way to the Milford Target to shop with one police officer, or their “Partner for the Day.” Each child got to shop for their family as well as for a child from the community where the police officer serves.
“We love to participate in this event because it gives us the opportunity to work one on one with a child that that is less fortunate than most. We are helping to build stronger bonds with these children and helping to grow their trust of Law Enforcement while bringing a smile to their faces and making their holiday season better,” says Lt. David Hartman, who was one officer representing Wilton at this year’s event.
He was joined by Sgt. Anna Tornello, Ofc. Eric Patenaude, Ofc. Elise Ackerman, Ofc. Brandon Harris and Ofc. Melissa LaPak. It was the department’s third year participating in this event. “The first year we had one officer, two officers the second year and six this year,” Hartman said.
In all, more than 500 children from across Connecticut will get the opportunity to spend time with an officer through the program.
For Hartman, this year’s experience had a tremendous impact on him.
“I worked with a boy who happened to be a student in my wife’s class at school. I would love to tell you about him and his life but I am not sure what I can say other than he has a very difficult life and is in need of a male role model to support him and guide him. During my time with him he said that this was the best night of his life and the best Christmas he has ever had. If that is not enough to make your heart melt I don’t know what is.”
The officers in the Wilton Department have made a conscious effort to increase their involvement in community events, both in and out of town.
“We realize that the role of Law Enforcement goes beyond the boundaries of Wilton,” says Hartman. “As police officers we have been given an amazing opportunity to help people and communities and that is what we are doing. Children hold a special place in the hearts of Law Enforcement and we always try to rise to the call when they need assistance whether it is a 911 call for help, CT Special Olympics or Shop With A Cop.”
Hartman grew up in Wilton and he says community events here in town hold a special place in his heart.
“I am always looking for a way to give back to this community for the opportunities that it gave me,” he says.
It’s something he and his fellow officers appreciate being able to do.
“One of the reasons we are afforded the opportunity to help out as much as we do is because of the tremendous support we receive from Chief Lynch and the administration. They too are strong believers in giving back to the community and showing that we are part of the community,” Hartman says.
All photos courtesy of Mike Connolly.