ELIZABETHTOWN — The badge-wearers in Bladen County are feelin’ the love, and it’s coming from outside the county this time.
On Wednesday, the county’s officers and rangers were treated to a gift-giving luncheon at the Melvin-Powell Agriculture Center for a program that began last December. Born of the open hostility directed toward law enforcement around the country was the Adopt-A-Cop program, an effort to let law enforcement officers know they are supported and loved.
To honor local men and women, Bladen County picked up the program in December of 2016, hoping to make it a semi-annual event. The first of 2017’s events was held recently and, on Wednesday, recipients gathered at the ag center to pick up gifts and enjoy a catered lunch. Helping out with the serving was 13-year-old Hope Mills resident Taylor Jackson.
A beauty pageant contestant, Jackson is the reigning local Outstanding Little Miss and created a ministry — SERVE — as an outreach of her pageant work.
“I think it’s important to serve those who serve us,” the beauty queen said Wednesday as she, complete with tiara and sash, filled drinks and kept the sandwich tray full.
“SERVE” stands for “support,” “enrich, “respect,” “venerate,” and “encourage,” which Jackson said was why she was there Wednesday — to do all of those things for the officers and rangers in Bladen County.
While Jackson SERVE-ed, Bladen County badge-bearers enjoyed a catered lunch. Officers and rangers dined on subs and chips from Subway, tea and lemonade from Cape Fear BBQ, and cookies, cupcakes, and donuts from Burney’s Sweets & More.
After the meal, officers picked up gifts donated by county residents. The $25 gifts ranged from restaurant gift cards and car washing gift baskets to grill sets, hygiene kits, and vacation-themed bags. Included in each was a card or thank-you note for the officer or ranger. The county’s three canines even got in on the action, receiving mega-sized boxes of treats or squeaky toys.
“It means a lot that the people in Bladen County would do this,” said Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker. “It’s nice to know that what we do is appreciated.”
Elizabethtown Police Chief Tony Parrish agreed.
“It’s nice to see that people support what we do,” he said. “You don’t see that everywhere.”
Recipients of the gift-gift program include the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, Highway Patrol of Bladen County, wildlife officers, park rangers, Elizabethtown Police Department, Bladenboro Police Department, and White Lake Police Department.
“I think it’s important that we do this,” said Davis. “They’re still being ridiculed and accused of whatever, just because they’re wearing a badge. Every time they put on a uniform, there’s no guarantee they’re going to walk back through the doors.”
Davis said she hopes Bladen County will continue to support the program, which will take place again in December, 2017. For more information on the Bladen County Adopt-A-Cop program, email email@example.com.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.