In a few vehicles of the Erie Police Department’s fleet, you’ll find something out of the ordinary… a trunk full of teddy bears.
Often times, when police respond to incidents involving domestic violence, among other calls, a child is present. To ease the tension to an otherwise stressful situation, members of the Erie Police Department’s Quebec unit keep a stuffed animal ready and waiting.
The Quebec Unit is a community policing unit with a primary function of patrolling all areas owned and operated by the City of Erie Housing Authority. Each year, the officers receive dozens of these stuffed animals to hand out to the children they encounter after being dispatched to a call.
The toy drive is a collaboration between the UPMC Hamot Perioperative Surgical Services Team and the St. James Lutheran Church in Fairview. Every year for Surgical Technologist’s Week the group collects teddy bears and dolls, St. James parishioners wrap them up, and attach a tag that says, “you are never alone”.
“I think it’s just a really good thing,” says UPMC Hamot Surgical Technologist Nancy Samick. “I am hoping that the community will also support St. James Church because these teddy bears and dolls are distributed big time and there are kids out there that need these... if I was in a situation where I was being taken away from my loved ones or saw something that I didn't want to see, I think for me to hold on to something would just calm... and just have something to hold if I can't hold my mom or dad or loved one."
Besides offering a peaceful distraction to an otherwise stressful situation it also brings out the human element to the police interaction with the community.
“It’s all smiles,” says EPD Patrolman Thomas Borrelli of the Quebec Unit. “I say that we have the best part of this job; they do all the hard work and we get all the smiles out of it, so it’s been great.... it shows them that we are more than the uniform; that we are persons too, and we can interact with them as well, positively; and I think they enjoy it."
This year the surgical tech’s collected more than 270 bears. The teddy bears are also handed out to area fire departments, of course, to be handed out at times of loss or stress, as well.
"The end result in a nutshell," says Nancy, "is its just comfort for the child and that is what is most important for this drive."
The unit also provides the teddy bears to children at SafeNet and other women's shelters.
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