The San Jose Police Department has a new community outreach effort called Coffee with a Cop. These community meetings make local connections with the SJPD officers. For Sgt. Donohue, coffee was not enough.
"Policing is not just about handcuffs and jail. It's about the relationships we build and foster in our communities. We chose to hold the Community Cleanup and Breakfast because there are few better ways to share time with people than breaking bread," said Sgt. Donohue.
Sgt. Donohue approached Ms. Trowbridge with the idea to clean up the park and neighborhood and serve every one of the volunteers breakfast. And, excuse the police officer cliché, but he didn't just want doughnuts – it was going to be a pancake, egg, and bacon breakfast made by SJPD officers. Ambitious, but the idea took off.
On the day of the event, officers and school staff began to arrive at 6:30 in the morning to prepare. An outdoor kitchen was set up. Tables and chairs for volunteers were organized by SJPD junior cadets. And the San Jose Anti-litter and Anti-graffiti department prepared for volunteers by having a full stock of florescent vests, gloves, and "trash picker-uppers."
Just before 8:00 am, nearly 50 San Jose Police Officers, some community organizations, and about a dozen K. Smith staff gathered in a big circle for the morning briefing. Sgt. Donohue shared a few inspirational words and divided the officers into different teams. And we waited for the volunteers. And they came – in all four hundred and two!
Then began the work. Teams of volunteers led by San Jose Police Officers headed off throughout the neighborhood cleaning every piece of litter from our school all the way to King Rd. In all, three truck loads of garbage and illegally dumped items were hauled away by the city parks department.
A few teams took on some special beautification projects as well that included painting some walls along the back side of the strip mall on Clarice and filling all the flower beds on the school campus with fresh cedar wood chips.
Throughout the event, teams were called back to the park and were treated to the hot breakfast and great conversation. Officers and community members ate together and shared stories. Ana Heredia, a K. Smith parent, shared that her children want to be police officers now. "It was great to have everyone connect - parents, police, and children" she said.
District 8 Councilmember Sylvia Arenas and Evergreen School District Superintendent Kathy Gomez came to thank volunteers for the effort. "It was wonderful to see such a large outpouring of support from the community and K. Smith families," said Superintendent Gomez.
The highlight of the day was saved for the visit from Chief of Police Eddie Garcia when he flew over the neighborhood in the San Jose Police helicopter and thanked volunteers over the loud speaker.
"We look forward to using this event as a model for others, elsewhere in our city," said Sgt. Donohue.
Thank you to all of the volunteers, community organizations, San Jose Police Department, the K. Smith staff especially Ms. Ramos and Ms. Trowbridge, and Sgt. Donohue for creating such a special day. It's incredible what we can do when we all come together. Now, it's in our hands to keep it up.