Chattanooga Police Department Officers often engage with community members, including numerous children, at the worst moment in their lives and officers want to help as best they can in those times.
In early 2020, a CPD Officer who has since relocated, and friend of CPD Officer Alex Forgey, shared the following story with Alex’s mom, Ruthie, during lunch early in 2020. He was working a call involving young children and waiting for the Department of Children’s Services response. He kept the kids engaged for a while, but then ran out of ideas on how to keep them occupied, calm or even just entertained.
Ruthie Forgey is an administrator/officer with The Salvation Army of Greater Chattanooga Area and oversees the Cleveland Tennessee Unit. Upon hearing the story shared by this young officer and learning from him and her son that the officers did not have anything to give to children in crisis, she recognized this as a relevant need and began to recruit sponsors to help create the Cops Care Bags.
Due to COVID, its unknowns, and the precautions that came with it, Ruth’s efforts were temporarily stalled. However, she was determined and continued working on seeing her idea come to fruition.
Along the way, Ms. Forgey brought in some friends to help, including Olga de Klein, the CPD Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association president. They, along with a few other CPAAA members, Salvation Army, Air Systems Unlimited, North Cleveland Church of God and City Church got to work seeking donations, collecting them, assembling care packages then distributing those bags to a few officers. CPD and Ms. Forgey’s goals were to supply all 200+ CPD Neighborhood Policing Officers with two care packages each and have new supplies for them once the initial packs were given to kids who are suddenly involved in or witness to a traumatic event. That is when CPD Chief David Roddy got involved by contacting Unum’s Assistant Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Cary Olson Cartwright, who didn’t hesitate to assist with the effort.
“I am continuously reminded and amazed by the incredibly selfless, compassionate people who are part of this community,” said Chief Roddy. “From an officer who’d only been with CPD for a little more than a year, to Ruthie with an idea and ambition, the CPAAA and Salvation Army who are always willing to help, to Unum and its employees who are committed to supporting others in the communities where they live and work. Sometimes it really does take a village.”
Unum and its employees have not only procured the bags and items, but also stuffed more than 600 Cops Care Bags for CPD Officers to distribute to vulnerable children in the community. CPD and Unum consulted with Becky Haas, an experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) trainer and internationally recognized implementer of trauma informed care, to select items that can occupy a child as well as calm and reduce their trauma. Those items include a heart-shaped stress ball, fidget toy, small stuffed animal, markers, activity book or coloring pages and lap blanket.
“We are honored to support Cops Care as part of our Healthier Communities program,” said Lisa Iglesias, Unum’s executive vice president and general counsel. “We’re taking a concentrated interest in mental and behavioral health, specifically to support youth with early intervention resources, and know that this partnership with the CPD will help decrease the negative impacts of traumatic experiences for children across Chattanooga.”
"Chattanooga Police Officers, along with family, schools and the community, play a significant role in the lives of vulnerable children in our neighborhoods," officials said. "By collaborating efforts, we can work together to try to change the short and long-term negative outcomes that are so often associated with trauma and violence."