Tough hands, big hearts

Published 3:38 pm Sunday, December 21, 2008

I suppose I’m going to blow the lid off their “tough” exteriors with this column, but in the past couple of days I’ve had the opportunity to observe the compassion of two of our local law enforcement agencies here in the Roanoke-Chowan area. (The stories regarding these kind acts will be published in upcoming editions of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.)

Let’s face it, law enforcement officers don’t exactly get the respect they often deserve, though they put their lives on the line daily to ensure public safety and the general well-being in our communities.

All too often when it comes to public opinion regarding officers, the fact that they are human like the rest of us gets lost somewhere between the job description and the uniform.

On Thursday morning, I tagged along with the Murfreesboro Police Department as they delivered presents to students with special needs at Riverview Elementary School.

It’s the third time I’ve joined Chief Darrell Rowe, Sergeant Jamie Dilday and “Santa” during their trip to the school.

The event is Sgt. Dilday’s brain child and with Chief Rowe’s support he has been able continue the event. The first year began with only with a handful of students, and since then the program in which the students are a part of has grown to 15.

Soliciting donations from Murfreesboro businesses and individuals, Sgt. Dilday has made this initiative possible for approximately the last six years.

Several of the gifts received by these students (who have special needs) have been educational and have benefited the children in their everyday lives.

Santa always makes sure to spend individual time with each of the children, speaking to them and assisting the students with opening their large gift bags.

It’s become one of my favorite annual assignments to cover. With all the hum-drum everyday questioning that goes into a typical news story, it’s nice to write a feature where you don’t have to question anyone’s motivation.

Observations of the simple, honest interactions between the children and officers are what makes this story.

On Friday morning I witnessed yet another act of kindness coming from the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office and the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of the Police.

I met Sheriff Wardie Vincent, Jackson Police Chief John Young and Garysburg Police Chief Raymond Vaughan at the Rich Square Manor, one of their five stops at senior adult assisted living facilities across the county.

The three lawmen along with FOP member Evelyn Edwards delivered gift bags filled treats and hygiene products.

Each senior in the common room was greeted with a soft touch on the shoulder and a cordial greeting.

Employees with the facility told me how much the residents appreciate the visits from NCSO and the FOP, who have been making the early visit for quite a few years.

While each of these events was started by the law enforcement officers, the local community played a huge part in allowing these officers to give back. It is another example of how important it is to support our emergency personnel.

The typical citizen can only imagine what law enforcement officers see on a regular basis and the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that comes with the territory; monitoring the underbelly of our society is no easy task.

While it’s noble to be a law enforcement officer, it’s even more laudable to be a law enforcement officer who sees a need in their community and responds to the challenge.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.