Ga. (CNS) -- The Adopt-A-Cop ministry of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in
Brookhaven, launched in late February, is helping parishioners forge
relationships with local law enforcement.
ministry has grown by leaps and bounds as 144 parish families have adopted 54
employees of the Brookhaven Police Department, which has 65 sworn police
Stephens, parish communications director, gives credit to the Holy Spirit for
the program's success.
winter, Deacon Ed Patterson approached her about starting the ministry in
support of Brookhaven officers after learning about it from a deacon friend.
sounded like a great idea. I was always raised to respect police," said
Stephens told The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
didn't expect to be deeply involved but accompanied the deacon to an inquiry meeting
with Brookhaven Deputy Chief Juan Grullon and Sgt. Jake Kissel of the Support
went in thinking the program would consist of sending notes of
and praying for officers. She said the chief and sergeant had more in
mind, wanting "to get to know the men and women of the department."
"They wanted us to have a relationship with them, to build
community," Stephens said. "I was so impressed with both officers that when we got back into Deacon
Ed's car, I told him, 'I want to run this.'"
assured them they were not trying to evangelize but to express thanks.
was thinking it was going to be a hard sell," she said.
parish ministry serves as the Brookhaven and Chamblee chapter of the national
Adopt-A-Cop organization, started in 1998 by a police chaplain.
the parish has expanded on the program of prayer encouraged by the national
kind of went rogue," joked Stephens.
and co-leader Sarah Cash developed surveys for officers to complete about their
hobbies, birthdays, favorite restaurants and foods, and interests.
deputy chief supported that effort but warned her law enforcement officers are
a private bunch and not to expect much. To the surprise of both sides, officers
enjoyed filling out the surveys.
community has learned much about those who protect them and the stress of the
has been the amazing part, getting a glimpse of what their lives are like,"
said Stephens. "It's hard on their families and on them."
of the officers commute from outside the Brookhaven area and don't spend a lot
of time socially with co-workers. Brookhaven, in suburban Atlanta,
became a city with its own police force in 2012.
Adopt-A-Cop ministry has given officers something in common as they show off
notes of support and talk about eating out with their adoptive families.
participating family received a packet of information about ways to support
their cop. The level of interaction depends on the officer's level of comfort.
Kissel was open to the program, he admitted an apprehension. He thought it
would fail. The sergeant was surprised how officers reacted and of the
willingness on both sides to build connection.
see that it's going both ways, it's shocking," said Kissel. "I think it speaks
well of Brookhaven. To have that bond with our citizens, it's something I've
never seen before."
a parish ministry, each grade of Our Lady of Assumption School and the
preschool also adopted officers. The youth group is participating. Other
ministries, including the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Society, Loaves and
Fishes, Stephen Ministry and Knights of Columbus, have lent support.
community has embraced the department. It's really mind-boggling what this
ministry has done," said Stephens.
people drop off baked goods or cards at the department, the officers come out
to say hello. "It's like one big happy family. That's what I want to put out
there," said Stephens.
friend of Stephens wanted to participate but was fearful about what to say to a
police officer. "They're just real people," Stephens assured her.
Holy Spirit has moved through this program," she said.
you hug an officer, it's impossible to miss the bulk of their bulletproof vests,
people are here to serve and protect," she said. "They have to go out every day
for my benefit." An increasing number of emails from officers ask for prayers
for them or loved ones, she said.
are receiving so many cards that the city manager wants to make a book
compiling them. It helps officers remember, "This is why you were called to
wear this uniform," he said.
sergeant and Officer David Fikes visited the classroom of fifth-grade teacher
Kathy Berg Sept. 14 to answer students' questions. Fikes let the children visit
with his K-9, a Belgian Malinois named Dano.
talked about storm recovery and police gadgets and showed his bulletproof vest
to students. He told them he had never had to use his gun in the line of duty.
police officer's job is really about presence, he told the class.
drive all day. That's our job," he said. "We're out and about."
a story about police officers and comparing them to sheepdogs," Kissel told
students. "You're our sheep."
Devassy, 10, enjoyed the visit to his class.
really like the Adopt-A-Cop organization," said Vijay. Since the class adopted
a cop, when he sees an officer out in public, "I try and say thank you," he
wrote participating families to thank them for their generosity and creativity
in adopting members of the police force. She shared the words of officers,
including Cpl. Tom Martin and Officer Maria Jones.
church has been so nice. In my 24 years of being in law enforcement, I have
never experienced the care and love you guys all show," wrote Martin. "I enjoy
working in Brookhaven and I have worked in some violent places in my career."
believe I speak for all the men and women in blue when I say we appreciate
people like you and your church. I appreciate great citizens who are concerned
for our well-being, so we can make our communities all a safer place," Jones