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Officers deliver holiday cheer to those in need

Springfield program provides complete Thanksgiving meal to city families.

For the past month, Laura Bates hasn’t had a job, money or a place to call home. But none of that was as heartbreaking for the single mom as knowing she wasn’t going to be able to give her son a real Thanksgiving dinner this holiday.

“It’s the little things,” she said. “It’s never quite been like this, where I’ve hit rock bottom and can’t even afford to eat Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a really bad feeling when you have kids, and this is a family time, and I couldn’t provide.”

So it was very unexpected when a Springfield police detective who met her at the hospital when she was with her son recommended her for the department’s annual Operation: Thanksgiving. When she got a phone call telling her the department would provide her a holiday meal, free of charge, Bates said, “It actually made me cry.”

“I’ve had my bad times with the cops, but I’ve never been on this side with them. They are really there to help you,” she said. “It just touches my heart.”

The program delivers holiday dinners to needy families identified by Springfield Police Division officers and Catholic Charities.

This year, officers helped 10 area families with a turkey dinner along with all the fixings: stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, vegetables, bread, milk, eggs and, of course, pumpkin pie.

With the help of the Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, Springfield Command Officers Association, Meijer and Walmart, volunteers and police officers assemble the meals and then make door-to-door deliveries. It’s one of the most positive experiences the department has all year, said Sgt. Joe Tedeschi.

“These folks live in our community, and it is still very tough economic times, and our police officers come into contact with them every day,” he said. “We’re just fortunate that we’re able to go and help them.”

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