COVENTRY — From raising funds for residents affected by cancer to growing out beards as part of the annual no-shave November campaign, the Coventry Police Department has made a strong effort in recent years to expand its community outreach.
Sitting Thursday morning at a table in the police station, pink patches and custom T-shirts spread out before him, Officer AJ Medeiros spoke about the various initiatives being undertaken by members of the department.
“We really care about the people in the community,” Medeiros said. “For us to be able to provide to these nonprofits, and for us to be able to do food drives for the Coventry Food Pantry, it’s a pretty nice thing.”
Because there’s no division dedicated to community-oriented policing within Coventry’s police department, Medeiros said officers have striven over the last couple of years to make positive contributions to the community wherever they can.
Col. John MacDonald on Friday touted the importance of community policing as a means of establishing partnerships between police and the residents they serve, adding that “better communication equals better understanding” of residents’ needs.
“The more involved law enforcement is with the residents that we are sworn to protect, the more our residents can help law enforcement meet our mission,” MacDonald said, adding that he’s proud of the officers in the department for the work they’ve been doing. “We hope our focus on getting involved with the people we serve has improved trust between law enforcement and our community.”
The department’s current focus, in terms of community outreach, is on raising money to help Rhode Islanders who’ve been affected by cancer.
Last year, in recognition of all cancers that impact women, pink T-shirts were sold to officers within the department to raise funds for Rhode Island Pink Heals. And this year, Medeiros thought up the idea of having pink patches made and sold to once again benefit the local nonprofit.
Founded in 2009 by a Central Coventry firefighter, Rhode Island Pink Heals raises money to assist area men, women and children battling cancer.
“Pink Heals is an organization that keeps all the funds local,” Medeiros said, a pink shirt visible beneath his police uniform. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors — you see right where your donation is going.”
In addition to the patches, the department this year is also selling a new T-shirt to its officers to raise funds for Pink Heals. Holding up a black T-shirt designed with a pink dog in a police hat and the words “take a bite out of cancer,” Medeiros said he expects they’ll sell out.
Just by selling the patches and T-shirts, Medeiros added that he anticipates the department will be able this month to donate some $1,600 to Pink Heals.
Then, as October ends, members of the Coventry Police Department will turn their attention to another worthy cause, letting their beards grow to support the wellbeing of veterans.
Funds raised through the department’s “no-shave November” efforts will go to Home Base, a program run by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital that, according to its mission, seeks “to heal the invisible wounds for veterans, service members and their families through world-class clinical care, wellness, education and research.”
The department also participated last year in the Home Base first responder no-shave campaign, joining more than 100 police departments from across New England to raise $276,000 for the nonprofit.
While the campaign aims to raise funds, the hope is that the beards will also raise awareness and help erase the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress and other “invisible wounds of war.”
Similarly, Medeiros said he hopes the pink patches this month will inspire conversation, and will show residents that they’re supported by their police department.
“We’ve all had someone who’s been touched by cancer, or know of someone who’s passed away or is a survivor,” he said. “We don’t know what they’re going through, but as long as they know that we have their back, I think that’s huge.”
Medeiros said the department is considering participating in “double-down December,” as well, foregoing shaving for a second month to raise funds for purchasing clothing and toys for local families in need.
“We’ve been sponsoring families for Christmastime for years,” Medeiros added. “So we’ve been doing stuff on the QT for a while, and progressively, we’ve been trying to do more and more.”
The department next month will also kick off its annual food drive, collecting non-perishable food donations for the food bank.
“This is when times become the toughest,” Medeiros said of the upcoming holiday season. “You’ve got Thanksgiving, Christmas, and people are really stretched thin.”
Through their various community outreach efforts, Medeiros said officers hope to remind Coventry residents that they’re “not just here for all the bad stuff.”
“We’re here for the good stuff,” he continued, a pink patch sewn to his sleeve and little pink police car pinned to the front of his uniform. “We’re part of the community, as well.”
Donations to the no-shave November campaign can be made by visiting because.massgeneral.org and searching “Home Base.” Once there, click on the link to the Coventry PD to contribute directly to Coventry’s efforts. There’s also a limited supply of pink patches to benefit Pink Heals, which can be purchased for $10 by emailing Medeiros at AMedeiros@coventrypd.org.
And regardless of one’s capacity to donate, Medeiros said he hopes through the department’s outreach efforts to instill within resident the importance of being kind.
“We want to remind people to be nice to each other,” he said. “Just be nice to someone else — that goes a long way.”