Jesus said, “Greater love hath no one than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” The love shown by our police in facing danger everyday as they risk their lives to protect our community exemplifies that love described by Jesus Christ. In fact, since 1895, 18 Winston Salem’s police officers gave their lives in the line of duty. We at Fairview Moravian Church felt that it was high time for somebody to say thank you!
In September, the Outreach Committee at Fairview, chaired by Shirley Byerly, invited police officers and their families from our local division to a Police Appreciation Day to celebrate and show our appreciation and love for these men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day.
The idea of having a police appreciation day had originally been suggested several years earlier, but finally at the urging of Fairview’s Matt Hubbard and Danny Ferguson, Fairview’s joint board gave its approval to move forward with the project this year.
Neighbors Candice and Rod Back were recruited to prepare a top-notch celebration for its police heroes, with the church’s Outreach Committee providing the expertise and people-power to get this project into action. Rod and Candice jumped in, preparing, posting and distributing signs, press releases and posters announcing the event. Candice contacted more than 50 local businesses to request gifts of appreciation to the police to be awarded to our officers based on a random drawing of names. Without hesitation, everyone she asked eagerly made a thank you gift for our police. This generosity and enthusiasm to participate speaks to the high regard that all our neighbors have for our local police.
Preparing a celebration
We contacted Police Chief Barry Rountree and his staff to get police approval and to select the date. Fairview’s Outreach Committee organized the seating arrangement, furnished the food, including hamburgers, hotdogs and the trimmings. Cooks like Ken Hauser, Danny Flowers and Everett Freeman grilled and cooked. Church members and neighbors brought more delicious dishes, along with
wonderful desserts. Soon we had a feast big enough to feed the multitudes.
At about 11:30 a.m. on the big day, the Fairview parking lot began filling up with police cars. If you had not known better, you might have thought an emergency was taking place. It was a wonderful sight to see these police officers exit their cruisers and walk into a grateful crowd of people who were anxious to tell them thank you.
Soon the “Little Rockers,” a three-man band including the Rev. Brad Bennett, Steve Hodge, and Dale West, began to play everything from rock and roll to country music. Many of the audience began tapping their feet and singing along as the fun time became even more jubilant. As the officers continued to file in—some with their families, others on duty, some in uniform, some in civilian clothes—they were immediately welcomed and asked to go to the front of the food line.
What a great moment it was for us to be up close and personal with these great men and women. The officers wore wide smiles as they told us how grateful they were to be recognized by Fairview and the neighborhood. They were kind, respectful and gracious yet remained very professional and on semi-alert status, some with their earphones in to monitor police calls. Occasionally, an officer would have to rush out to his patrol car and speed away to answer a call. It appeared to me that each and every one of these officers was the cream of the crop of our young adult generation. They made me feel safe, protected and proud to be from Winston-Salem.
Thanking our officers
Fairview’s pastor, the Rev. Scott Venable, served as master of ceremonies, welcoming our valued guests and sharing how much our police department means to us. After everyone joined in the Moravian Blessing, Pastor Scott announced that several months earlier at Fairview’s Fourth of July celebration, Alden Dull, a long-time Fairview member, career police officer, and formerly the interim chief of police, had been the church’s “God and Country Award” recipient for his great service to both our community and to our church.
“Today,” Pastor Scott said, “we recognize another great police officer, Winston-Salem’s oldest retired officer, Officer Bailey Brown, Sr.” Officer Brown was seated in the audience with his wife and family, including his son Bailey Brown, Jr., also a retired police officer. A plaque was presented to the elder Bailey Brown for his dedication to law enforcement.
Pastor Scott also presented a plaque to Division One of the Winston-Salem Police Department in recognition of everything they do for us, and another plaque was presented to the entire police department for their dedication to the safety of the community. In accepting the plaque, Chief Rountree gave a brief speech, noting solemnly that they seldom receive invites like this. He was truly grateful.
Candace Back, with the help of Betty Ferguson, drew names from a police-only box and called out the winners. The gifts ranged from fuel cards, to a free wheel alignment, to numerous free dinners at a variety of restaurants. One wonderful gift came from local television news anchor, Cameron Kent, who gave a round of golf for three to play with him at Maple Chase Country Club, with everything, including lunch, furnished.
Next, Betty Ferguson, accompanied by the Fairview Choir, sang, “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” One tough old retired officer told me that when Betty got to the part of the song that crooned, “You are my hero . . .,” he began to tear up. (Actually, many others of us did also.)
Finally, by mid-afternoon, after many words of appreciation, after a few more tears of happiness, and after extending an open invitation for our heroes to come back to visit us, the great Division One of the Winston Salem Police Force departed, all with full stomachs and all knowing that Fairview Moravian Church, as well as the Hope Valley and Ashley Forrest neighborhoods loved and appreciated them.
The event was very successful. It was a satisfying opportunity to honor our dedicated men and women in blue and tell these heroes how much we appreciate them and how they are the essence of God’s love.
Danny Ferguson is a member of Fairview Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.