Outpouring of Appreciation Shown to Local Officers During Holidays
WHEELING — Many in the Ohio Valley will be enjoying a day off to celebrate Christmas with their families this weekend, while a number of men and women in uniform will remain on the job to maintain the peace and make sure everyone stays safe during the holiday.
Essential workers like police officers, highway patrol troopers, 911 dispatchers and sheriff’s deputies are on duty 24/7/365, and this festive season and even federal holidays offer no exception. During the season of giving, many people recognize the service and sacrifice put forth on a year-round basis by those in law enforcement and other emergency service agencies.
And their outpouring of appreciation certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.
In recent weeks, many local agencies have been showered with notes of thanks, Christmas cards, holiday gifts, chocolates, trays of cookies and other treats as gestures and tokens of the communities’ appreciation for what the men and women in blue do.
“It just shows you how much support people from the community that come in and appreciate what the deputies do when they’re out there, especially during the holidays,” Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas said.
“It’s really nice when people from our community come in and show their appreciation to the deputies, and also to our support dogs and our K-9s. That’s awesome. That just really makes us feel good having that support.”
In the Friendly City, officers have been receiving a steady flow of hometown — and oftentimes homemade — displays of holiday gratitude from the community over the past few weeks, according to Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger.
“We experience this roughly from Thanksgiving through New Year’s,” Schwertfeger said, referring to the array of cards, candy and cookies the department receives from local entities this time of year. “I think we all gain five to 10 pounds each through this two-month stretch.”
The show of support has a positive impact on the officers, according to the chief. For those who work long shifts — particularly the holiday shifts — workmates and the good people in the community can become an extended family for those who have to spend the holidays away from their own families at home. A job well done can be rewarding in itself, and kind gestures from the public often help underscore the important purpose and the key role essential workers provide — and emphasize that it is not going unnoticed.
“It is heartwarming,” Schwertfeger said. “There are always police officers on duty, and a lot of the younger officers especially may not be able to have the whole day off to spend with their families. We try to accommodate everyone as best we can.”
Just because most businesses are closed during the holiday and commerce is primarily limited to travel to and from family events, that doesn’t mean a holiday shift makes for an easy day at work. Even on Christmas Day, there are calls for service and oftentimes tense situations in which citizens need law enforcement to intervene.
“They may be required to respond to a domestic or who knows what else,” Schwertfeger said. “The officers are dedicated, no doubt. It’s always nice when folks in the public express their thanks to the people in the department for their service to the community.”
In recent years, police officers in particular have not only had to fight crime and protect citizens while on the job, but have also had to perform their duties despite the COVID-19 pandemic and serve everyone in the community in the face of turbulent national narratives that often influence and polarize society’s attitudes toward police.
While many local businesses and organizations provide special “thank-yous” to law enforcement agencies during the holidays, some individuals make it a point to step up and show their appreciation, as well.
Alicia Estadt of St. Clairsville has been joined by a rotating crew of helpers for a heartwarming holiday blitz as a way to show thanks to the local service agencies over the past few years. This year, Sarah Erwin of St. Clairsville and Sarah Hughes of Moundsville helped round out the group, which not only made loads of homemade cookies and baked goods, but also assembled care packages and treats for officers and K-9s as well.
“This is our third year of doing it,” Estadt said. “It started out just as sort of a random thing, but now we do it every year, and we really enjoy it.”
Estadt said she and her friends provide holiday deliveries to the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio State Highway Patrol post in St. Clairsville, both of the Cumberland Trail Fire Department’s stations, the Belmont County 911 dispatch center and the St. Clairsville Police Department.
“I have some health issues, and I get a lot of help from first responders,” Estadt said. “They always take time away from their families to help people like me and other people in the community, so why not do something special as a way to say ‘thanks’ to them? They deserve it.”
Public officials and their supporters can likely agree that at the end of the day, giving thanks and counting your blessings have always been part of what the holiday season is all about.