WHEELERSBURG — It was a standing ovation at Living With a Cause Theatre, 8805 Ohio River Road in Wheelersburg on Monday, as members of local law enforcement and first responder teams entered the auditorium to be honored for their hard work and dedication to the community.
Coordinated and hosted by Pastor Mike Gifford and the congregation of New Life Worship Center in New Boston, the evening of recognition and honor included a lineup of a host of talented local artists with music by the Jones Group, Ralph Clay, Dan Ward and Southern Harmony/Fred Spencer, as well as music and comedy by Stephanie Schaefer.
Gifford said their desire is to show their love, support and concern to local law enforcement officers and first responders.
“We are here to show our law enforcement just how much we care about them, and how we are praying for them continually,”Gifford said. “We had one of commissioners here and one of our State Representatives. We are just so blessed to have support from the community. What happened here tonight is hard to explain. We felt love, unity, and passion and that is all of what America needs. One common denominator in the equation is that we all need God in our lives, and we need him in our hearts, and when we get God in our hearts and love for each other all of the problems of America will go away. Until we do that, we are going to have issues.”
The event was prefaced with a meet and greet time, in which law enforcement officers present had the opportunity to interact with the community and the group enjoyed food and refreshments served during that time.
Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini, said what transpired at the theatre was overwhelming.
“It is overwhelming. Not only tonight, but today we had several people to come in to the department and bring food, and we had a couple of kids to come in and bring us cookies and a jug of milk. And tonight, what Mike is doing, it just brings you back to reality that people really do care,” Donini said. “It is crazy what has been going on here lately, but I think whenever there’s a crisis there is always someone there to step forward to help to fix it, and try to make things better, and this was planned before the Baton Rouge incident. Mike had called me, and really as law enforcement officers we are always seeing tragedy, victims calling wanting to report a burglary, or a situation that is always negative. When we are out there arresting people, again we are in negative situations and taking people to jail, so we don’t always get to see the positives that occur in our community, and tonight is one example. This is a really nice experience for us.”
Lieutenant Doug DeBord of Ohio State Patrol Post in Lucasville, said the event held in honor of law enforcement is very humbling.
“It is very humbling. We know that the majority of society supports what we do,” DeBord said. “To have an outpouring of support like this, from a professional standpoint, it is just nice to see that the community would come out in our honor just to show appreciation for what we really do. Just like with anything, 95 percent of people are good people, and support law enforcement. It is just nice to be able to come out and be recognized for what you do because unfortunately, most of the time we deal with people at their worst times in life, and we’re helping to either solve or correct a problem, so we don’t always get a thank you, or a shake of the hands. So, something like this is appreciated very much.”
A special portion of the event consisted of distribution of bags composed by youth from the New Life Youth Class, led by Amy Miller, Gifford’s daughter. Miller explained to the audience how each item contained in the packets were symbolic of attributes of law enforcement officers.
“Everything in these bags represents something. So for example, living with a cause, you do this every day,” Miller said. “There is a Life Saver in this bag which is to remind you of the many times you have been our life saver. There’s a Starburst in here for the burst of energy you’ll need. A Payday, there’s a Payday candy bar in here because you’re not doing it for the money, you’re doing it because you love it. Hershey’s Kisses, because you deserve them from all of us, big and small. Peppermint Pattie to help you keep your cool, and we all need that, even mamas. Snickers to remind you to keep your sense of humor. Mounds, for the mounds of courage you need everyday, because we’re running away from danger, and you’re running in to it, and we realize that and we appreciate that. At the very bottom it says,”This bag was made by the little hands of children from New Life Center Worship Center Church because you live with a cause every day.”
The children and the officers had smiles on their faces as they made their way throughout the auditorium to present each officer with a bag and the audience applauded.
At the conclusion of the event, Debbie Smith, executive director of the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, shared words of appreciation for local enforcement and first responders.
“The Red Cross so often partners with our local first responders, law enforcement, and we are so very grateful for all of what you all do, and so glad too for our community, because the Red Cross could not do what we do for those affected by major disasters, home fires and things without the help of our local community,” Smith said.
Gifford expressed deep appreciation to The Daily Times and other media outlets for coming out and supporting their efforts.
“Because people who care, like you from The Portsmouth Daily Times, and WSAZ from my heart I want to thank you all because you carry the message, and you get it out to the public,” Gifford said. “What we did was within the building, but what you do, it takes it to the world. What was done here tonight is so wonderful, so great that we can share our love and we felt it here in this building tonight for the love of our law enforcement officers, our state.”
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.