Photos: School Supply Drive by Newport Police Brings Overwhelming Support from Community
A school-supplies drive conducted by the Newport Police Department (NPD) for Newport public schools on Saturday, July 28, was so successful that Newport Intermediate School filled two police vehicles and provided enough supplies for the Newport Intermediate School to last until December.
The donation drive, which was held at the Kroger’s at Newport Pavilion, was created after Joshua Bucchi, president of Newport’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge (FOP #2), former FOP #2 President Cpl. Larry Long, and NPD Lt. Paul Kunkel met to discuss the department’s plans for this year’s “Night Out,” an annual national event - held this year on Aug. 7 – that is designed to connect a community’s police officers with its residents.
In preparation for the upcoming Night Out, Long – whose wife is a schoolteacher at Newport Intermediate School – suggested that the department host a Cram the Cruiser event, where citizens would buy and donate school supplies, which they would place in an NPD squad car parked in the shopping center parking lot.
When the event was over, the items would be taken to the school and placed in a designated classroom. When a teacher realized one of her students was missing a particular item, she could go into this classroom and retrieve it from this stockpile of supplies.
“Mrs. Long made a flyer of items that were needed by the school the day before we were going to do the drive, and we posted a quick notice on Facebook the night before,” Kunkel said. “We figured great ideas can’t wait, but once we started collecting donations, I soon began to realize that we would need a bigger cruiser!”
NPD officers collected donations at the store and helped Mrs. Long and Joe Wynn, Newport’s football coach, pass out the flyers of needed items to Kroger shoppers. Kunkel said that it seemed like everyone who visited the store that day stopped by the cruisers to drop off supplies. Even some Kroger employees put together a basket of items to cram into the squad car.
Toward the end of the day, the NPD officers had to retrieve a second vehicle – the department’s large SWAT van – to handle the overflow of donations. When the officers wrapped up the drive at 6 p.m., they had filled both the SWAT van and an NPD SUV cruiser with donated items.
“When people need a police officer, it’s rarely because something good is happening,” Kunkel said. “Each officer who was collecting donations that day was absolutely floored by the support we saw from our community. It profoundly affected all of us.”
The outpouring of community support didn’t end there. Once all of the items had been taken to Newport Intermediate School, two teachers and a police officer realized that they had no practical way to transport of all of the donated items into the classroom without making hundreds of separate trips back and forth between the vehicles and the classrooms.
A member of the Promises Club, which uses the school’s parking lot for parking during its meetings, learned what the three were doing and enlisted about 20 of his fellow members at a nearby meeting hall to help the three haul the items into the classrooms.
“Seeing what happened that day makes me really proud to be a native of the City of Newport,” Kunkel said. “And really proud to be a police officer in this great city.”