Only a month after its launch, the city’s new “Passing on Kindness” fund has surpassed its $2,000 goal.
On Jan. 24, the Cottage Grove City Council unanimously approved a special fund which would provide dollars for police officers to engage in “acts of kindness” by helping individuals who they determine are in need.
The idea was generated by the Earth and Social Justice Committee at First Presbyterian Church and presented to the city. Figuring about $100 per officer would be enough, the plan called for an initial goal of around $2,000 to launch the project. As of Monday, Feb. 28, the account held $2,395.
“Obviously the idea resonated with people,” said the Earth and Social Justice Committee Chair Bruce Kelsh. “My starting goal asked: Can we pull of $100 per officer? Apparently, we can.”
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, in the days following the establishment of the fund, that number steadily grew.
“The quick response to this idea reflects Cottage Grove’s great heart,” said Kelsh. “People love the idea of supporting and empowering police officers to engage in acts of kindness in our community. Small acts of kindness are powerful and should not be underestimated.”
The fund is now a permanent line item in the city budget, which will be sustained by the generosity of the community. This also means if the funds are not spent in the current fiscal year, the trust rolls over into the next year to be appropriated and available for expenditure.
“So whatever goes in there will go toward kindness over time,” Kelsh added.
Officers will be able to spend the funds on items such as a pair of shoes, gasoline, a meal, or any need they think should be addressed.
Cottage Grove Police Chief Scott Shepherd praised the project and noted that these acts are already a characteristic among his officers, but have often come out of officers’ own pockets.
“We have lots of people in need and there have been guys and gals at work here that have brought in clothes, bought food, tents, even put somebody up for a night at one of the local motels. This just gives us an avenue to be able to continue to be mindful,” said Shepherd.
This issue of accountability was raised during last month’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 at the January meeting. “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.”
Shepherd said he didn’t see officers addressing needs such as utility bills or rent with the funds and suggested the discretionary budget may even be limited to $50.
“I think that we’ll be more aware of the need and be more likely to help and we can,” said Shepherd. “We’re usually the ones that come across folks in need more often than not — and through the generosity of the folks that are in our community, we’re able to kind of perpetuate that and move that forward. I think probably at the end of a year or so we’ll have some stories about things that we’ve done.”
Shepherd shared that, in a way, he wasn’t surprised the fund reached its goal so quickly. He detailed how, just recently, a resident asked the police department how to distribute a couple dozen hand-knitted caps and gloves to people in need. The police department collects such items for distribution on a regular basis, he said, sometimes even having to turn them away.
“And I think it’s certainly is indicative of how giving and caring people are in Cottage Grove,” he said. “And, like I said, we come across these folks more often than not, so us having the ability to give a blanket, a stuffed animal or whatever to somebody that could use that kindness, it’s great for us and it makes us feel good. And it makes our community better.”
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.