CGPD given funds for ‘acts of kindness’
Last week, the Cottage Grove City Council approved a special fund for police officers to engage in “acts of kindness” by helping individuals who they determine are in need.
The plan calls for $100 per officer to spend on items such as a pair of shoes, gasoline, a meal, or any need they think should be addressed.
Bruce Kelsh is the chair of the Earth and Social Justice Committee at First Presbyterian Church. He and his group came up with the idea, dubbing the campaign “Passing on Kindness”, and presented it to city staff.
“We try to do things that help people within the community in various ways and we came up with what, we think, is a very good idea,” he said. “It is kind of an experiment. But it’s the kind of thing that seems to resonate very positively with people during times when there’s a lot of negativity going on.”
The First Presbyterian Church’s Earth and Social Justice Committee and the Ministerial Association provided the city with an initial donation in the amount of $400 dollars and, with around 20 officers on staff, there is the potential raising up to $2,000 for the fund.
If the funds are not spent in the current fiscal year, the trust carries the fund forward to the next fiscal year to be appropriated and available for expenditure.
Kelsh said this week that another $50 had since come in and he is hoping to simply get the word out as a first step toward reaching the $2,000 goal.
“All people have to do is write a check to the City of Cottage Grove and write in the memo line, ‘Passing on Kindness,’ and that’s where it’ll go,” he said.
Part of the motivation for the idea was to find an effective through-line to provide relief for those in need in the community.
“The police are out and about in the community in ways that we aren’t. They see a part of Cottage Grove that we don’t,” Kelsh said. “And if they have the opportunity to do something kind for folks, our community’s all the better for that.”
Each officer will be empowered use their own discretion, too, providing a deeper sense of meaning to the officers’ jobs, he noted, as well as engendering good community relations.
“And small acts of kindness make a big difference in people’s lives,” he said. “It can mean the world to the person on the receiving end.”
Kelsh and others worked with the city’s accounting department, Police Chief Scott Shepherd and City Manager Richard Meyers to make sure the project was working above board financially.
This issue of accountability was raised during last week’s city council meeting. In order to keep tracking of expenditures, officers will be issued city credit cards.
“Those receipts will be turned in with that credit card,” said Finance Director Roberta Likens. “I don’t anticipate that it’s going to be abused in any way, but I know the (police) chief will be signing off on those receipts as well as myself and we’ll make sure that it’s spent appropriately that everybody can see what it’s been spent on.”
Chief Shepherd addressed the city council during discussion on the item, praising the project.
He thanked Kelsh for the donation and said he was aware of a ministerial program in the past providing a similar service. However, that service eventually stopped and CGPD officers have, on a regular basis, since been using their personal funds to help people in need, said Shepherd.
“I understand concerns about misuse; that would be something that would be monitored by me constantly and, as Mrs. Likens said, sent through the receipts and those kinds of things,” said Shepherd. “My belief would be that we would continue the good works that our guys and gals are already doing. … I appreciate the flexibility for us to continue to be kind. We’re frontline workers. We come across these kinds of things on a daily basis. To have the funds to be able to do that … it would have less of a financial impact on [officers].”
Councilor Greg Ervin called the program a “much needed expression of grace in the community”.
Councilor Candace Solesbee said that, as a downtown resident, she has witnessed officers caring for those in crisis.
“And in order for them to have the funds to do that, so it doesn’t come out of their pocket — this is right,” she said.
Councilor Mike Fleck also gave the program his full-throated support and said he would be making a donation himself.
The resolution passed unanimously at the Jan. 24 council meeting.
“A small act of kindness can make a big difference,” said Kelsh. “And so, I think that it’s nice to have big donors for projects like this. But it’s also nice to have lots of people donating wherever they can to something like this because they believe in making a difference in the community.”
Donations to the fund can be made by sending a check to the City of Cottage Grove (with Passing on Kindness in the memo): City of Cottage Grove, 400 East Main Street, Cottage Grove, OR 97424 or by dropping off the check at City Hall.