What began decades ago as an effort by police to raise money for indigent prisoners in the county jail continued Saturday as members of the local Fraternal Order of Police delivered holiday gift cards to needy families throughout Warren County.

For Robbie Perry, president of FOP Bowling Green Lodge 13, it was a welcome break for law enforcement, who he said often show up on the worst days of a person’s life.

“Generally, when the police come to their house, it’s not a good day,” Perry said, adding that police often have to deliver bad news or assist people who’ve just been victimized by crime. “This is where we’re hoping to show the good side of the police.”

Gathering in the parking lot of the Warren County Justice Center on a chilly Saturday morning, representatives from the Bowling Green Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies collected lists of addresses and gift cards for deliveries throughout the county.

Organizers said the pandemic has somewhat hampered their ability to fundraise, but with the help of Warren County residents, local businesses, the American Legion and Auxiliary Post 23, and the Aeolian Lodge 51 Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the program persists.

In the era of COVID-19, the familiar holiday family food boxes have been replaced with $70 Meijer gift cards for each family to use for their seasonal shopping.

This year, the local FOP is supporting dozens of families. On Saturday, its members set out to deliver gift cards. About 40 recipients live within the Housing Authority of Bowling Green.

Ken Merideth, a longtime member of the local FOP, said the program began many years ago when BGPD Officers John Cook and Martin Scott were moved by some of the men behind bars at the county jail. Seeing that the men were weeping because they had no way to feed their families, officers at the jail took up a collection and donated the proceeds to the men. That’s where the FOP’s Family Food Basket Program for the Holidays got its start, Merideth said.

Several local law enforcement leaders were on hand to assist with the deliveries Saturday, including BGPD Chief Michael Delaney and Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower.

“I’ve been an FOP member for almost 20 years now and they’ve always provided great support for our community … This is going to help a lot of people during the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Delaney, who was joined by his young son. “I’m showing him how important it is to give back to your community.”

“It’s a good way for us as law enforcement to connect with folks and show them that we’re not always out there doing all the regular police work,” Hightower said. “We have another side to us, and it’s giving back to our community in a lot of different ways.”

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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