The Springfield Police Division marked its 25th year of Operation Thanksgiving this week, helping dozens of families across the city put food on the table for the holiday.
Since the program began, police and community donations have helped hundreds of families celebrate Thanksgiving with a warm meal.
Donations from the men and women in the Springfield Police Division and local businesses makes the whole program possible, said Sgt. Joe Tedeschi with the division’s Community Response Team.
“For us to be able to come out and serve meals to 12 families, 31 children (every year) and do that for 25 years is a big deal,” Tedeschi said.
Some people just assume the role of a police officer is to answer emergency calls, Tedeschi said, but officers do much more than patrol the city.
>>RELATED STORY: Springfield police teach children safety lessons
“There’s so much more we’re involved in in our community and this is just one of those that allows us to be part of the community, providing a service to them that’s not traditionally known,” Tedeschi said.
Police officers donated money to the effort in exchange for the opportunity to either grow a beard or wear their short-sleeved uniform shirts in the month of November, he said.
“We ended up with almost $3,000 from that,” Tedeschi said.
Meijer contributed a large donation to the effort and more than a dozen volunteers spent the morning before Thanksgiving filling grocery carts full of food.
“It’s a wonderful project,” volunteer Punky Turner said.
This was Turner’s first time helping out after she completed the Springfield Police Division Citizen’s Academy earlier this year.
Families received a full turkey dinner, including stuffing, potatoes and cranberries, and got a second box full of other groceries to fill their pantries.
“Things that we need: bread, milk, things like that every day,” Tedeschi said.
Families chosen for the donations either request to be part of the program, are referred by D.A.R.E officers working in Springfield City Schools, or officers on the streets can refer families they come in contact with.
Linda Allen, who graduated from the citizen’s academy six years ago, helped deliver the food to the doorsteps of the families in need.
“Children, families, pets — they have all been very, very grateful,” Allen said.
The Springfield Police Division will also host a similar community fundraiser, Operation Santa, before Christmas.
Donations for that event go toward Christmas gifts for children to have on the holiday and groceries for families in need, Tedeschi said.
“We’re getting it to the families that genuinely need some help this holiday season,” he said.
The Community Response Team and the community outreach programs are in jeopardy, Tedeschi said, after a recent tax levy was turned down by voters.
If you would like to make a donation to the police division’s holiday fundraiser you can call 937-324-7731.