By Terry Harris
A group of area volunteers from the Petersburg Police Department showed up in Waverly on Sept. 19 with a truckload of food – 22 pallets full to be exact. Petersburg’s Deputy Chief of Police Travis Christian, who headed the effort, related how the group met up with local volunteers to help share the fresh food with local families in a huge Community Food Drive.
“We do this on a weekly basis in Petersburg,” Christian explained. “We kind of provide hands to give out food for people who need it, and with Covid-19 hitting a lot of folks in the pocketbook, the need is especially great. People can walk up or drive up and we do social distancing like putting what they need in their trunks. We are just glad to do it. We feel like we’ve been blessed, and we’re trying to pay it forward.”
Revealing that he has had a soft spot for the area ever since serving as Waverly’s Chief of Police some years ago, he added, “so when (former) mayor Mason told me of all the people in the area who were struggling due to the pandemic, we wanted to do something to help.”
Christian and his crew of department volunteers quickly secured food from Feed More, coordinated with Waverly police and area officials, and bright and early that Saturday morning a semi showed up loaded with the 22 pallets of ham, chicken, potatoes, onions, and more at the corner of highways 40 and 460.
“I’m not sure what the weight was,” he said, “but there was a whole lot of food – the truck was full. And by the time we finished distributing it, all we had left were a few potatoes and onions – which we took to the local food bank.”
“There really was a great turnout,” he added. “The location was perfect, the weather was great, and the citizens were very appreciative both for the free food and that they didn’t have to go far to get what they needed for their families.”
Coincidentally, the Community Food Drive was held on Waverly’s regular distribution day for the Mission Ministries Food Pantry as well as a Voter Registration drive and an effort to increase CENSUS2020 enrollment locally. Waverly Mayor McPhaul – who helped at the local pantry from 9:30 until 11:30 and then walked three blocks over to volunteer with the Petersburg Community Food Drive from 11:30 until 1:30 – remarked that it was really exciting to see so many people out in Waverly and so many good things going on in town at once.
“The local volunteers all were amazing,” Christian said. “It was great to see Sheriff Giles and both Mason, the former mayor, and Mayor McPhaul and others pitching in to help out. I was just so glad that he had alerted me to the need and that our group was ready and willing to go and help out. We have been so blessed in our city, and this was a great way to pay it forward. I’d say we helped at least four or five hundred families, and you could see in their faces that they all really appreciated it.”
When asked why he and his group of volunteers give up their week-ends to volunteer for service like this, especially since the pandemic began, Christian said, “In this country we’ve dealt with a lot – particularly in law enforcement. And any time we can come together and show this country that there’s a different side to law enforcement than what you see on the news, that’s what we’re about. We’ll do anything to build trust – build communities. Again, this is the way we try to pay our blessings forward – giving of essentials - like food - that is needed from time to time, if we can. Community Policing is a huge part of what we do, and it is important that we, as police officers and agencies, build a certain level of trust throughout our communities. You always have to be out there engaged to help your community. That’s what we do - help whenever we can.”
“It’s a great feeling knowing that we as law enforcement officers are doing something not just to help our community but a neighboring jurisdiction as well,” he added. “This is an ongoing thing. We are looking at setting one up soon in the town of Wakefield. And we are just so glad that we could help in Waverly. For those four hours, I would like to think that we touched somebody.”