CORTLAND, N.Y. — City police officers gave St. Mary’s School students a special gift of lions, elephants, gorillas and camels (Oh my!) shortly before the holidays in the form of 200 donated Christmas tree ornaments.
The veritable Noah’s ark of ornaments, donated by Central New York Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (CNY SNAP), delighted the school’s children, said Officer Jesse Abbott, who runs the department’s community oriented policing office.
Having such positive interactions with city children and their parents is the goal of the grant- and donation- funded Office of Community Oriented Policing, Abbott said.
“It just builds that trust in the community,” he said.
And trust-building is important for community relations, said Lt. Rick Troyer.
“It’s a very good thing,” Troyer said. “So the little kids know that cops are your friend.”
When Abbott’s former high school gym teacher, Mary Lou Bordwell, contacted him late in December and gave him a tote of more than 200 animal ornaments from CNY SNAP, Abbott knew he wanted to give them away to city school children.
Earlier this winter Abbott gave away about 100 knitted caps crafted by the city’s Silver Needles Knitting Club to children at Parker and Smith elementary schools. Last year, about 100 caps were handed out at Randall and Barry schools, Abbott said. It was St. Mary’s turn to receive a gift, he said.
The department coordinated the animal ornament release through Mary Beth Catalano, a preschool teacher’s aide at the school. Her husband, Chief F. Michael Catalano, patiently counted the ornaments to ensure there was enough for all of the children, Abbott said.
Abbott, along with officers Chad Knapp, Joe Peters and Ryan Gross, handed out the ornaments during the morning prayer assembly on Dec. 21.
Boardwell and the members of CNY SNAP didn’t know the children at St. Mary’s, but chose to be kind to them anyway, Abbott told the students, encouraging them to pass kindness along.
“[I told the kids] ‘It’s important to be kind,’” Abbott said in an interview this morning. “Let’s try to be kind, not only to each other – the other kids and your teachers – but to strangers, like CNY SNAP did.”