(pictured above: Kevin Walker Young helpers Kyan and Symiyah pose with (from left) Sgt. Tim James, Officer Latrina Leak, Capt. Natoshia James, Kenneth Burton, Officer Chris Paige and Officer Fontae Kilpatrick.)
“To protect and serve.” That’s their idiom.
On Sunday afternoon, though, local cops took the “serve” part to an entirely different level.
For nearly 200 men, women and children, lunch was on members of the local North State Law Enforcement Officers Association who spent about an hour at the corner of Northwest Boulevard and Patterson Avenue, serving hotdogs, chips and bottled water to anyone who wanted them. The location was across from the Samaritan Ministries Inn and Soup Kitchen and a block away from the Bethesda Center for the Homeless. Officer Latrina Leak said the homeless were the primary focus of the outreach initiative.
“We learned that there are really not a lot of (food) options for them at lunch time on Sundays … we want to try to do something every month,” said Leak, a 14-year Winston-Salem Police Department veteran who serves as president of the local chapter of North State, a more than 60-year-old statewide association of minority law enforcement officers.
The response to the gesture was strong – overwhelming, even. No sooner than Sgt. Tim James fired up the propane grill, a line formed. Within 20 minutes, more than 150 ’dogs had been served, making it necessary for Officer Fontae Kilpatrick to hightail it to a grocery store for more buns.
James said such an experience reminds officers that the communities they serve are populated with many different kinds of people – including some who deal with issues like poverty, hunger and mental disability. It also allows the public to see cops in a different light, the 22-year-veteran said.
“It shows the human side of police officers,” said James, who brought along grandkids Kyan, 4, and Symiyah, 8, to pitch-in. “We don’t just arrest people; we are here to serve.”
Officer Chris Paige manned the serving table, along with Leak, Capt. Natoshia James (Sgt. James’ little sister) and Leak’s father Kenneth Burton, who was more than happy to oblige his daughter when she recruited him to help out. Paige, who has been on the Winston-Salem Police force for about 18 months, is one of the newest North State Law Enforcement Officers Association members.
“It provides training opportunities … It’s a good way to meet people. The chief (Barry Rountree) is a member; the Captain (Natasha James) is a member … You can learn from a lot of people,” Paige said, enumerating the reasons he joined North State.
There are about 30 local members, said Leak, who has served as president for the last six years. Across the state, there are 10 other chapters in cities like Charlotte, Durham, Wilmington and Greensboro. Local members decided at a recent meeting that they wanted to devote more of their energy to outreach and service. Sunday’s event was just a preview of what is to come, Leak said.
In less than 45 minutes, the 200 hotdogs the officers’ had prepared had been claimed, and Capt. Natoshia James felt confident that she and her colleagues had made a difference.
“People here have it hard,” she said. “This (the lunch) was one less thing for them to have to worry about today.”