Kelsey's Steak House guests were in for a treat Thursday evening. Officers from the Valparaiso Police Department served guests, bussed tables, and received donations for a program close to their hearts. All funds earned during ‘Tip a Cop’ went to the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program, a 13-week intensive program for local 6th and 7th graders.
“Our philosophy is we can’t reach the kids young enough,” said Jeff Balon, Chief of Valparaiso Police Department. “The earlier we can develop a good relationship and trust with kids, the better.”
According to Balon, GREAT allows youth to bond with their school’s resource officer and visiting officers. Those early connections can change a child's life, possibly preventing crime and harmful choices.
“A lot of officers choose this profession to help kids and make a difference,” Balon said. “Many of them are parents, and the GREAT program resonates with them.”
Terry Cox, Benjamin Franklin Middle School Resource Officer, believes GREAT allows children to change their perspective of her fellow police officers. At first, kids might fear someone in uniform with a shiny badge, and GREAT allows those fears to relinquish.
Through the 13-week program, children learn important life skills, such as communication, anger management, setting goals, life decisions, and more. Cox said the 10-year-old program starts in September and runs through May, ending with a grand celebration.
“All the kids get to come to the high school and play basketball, volleyball, laser tag, and jump in inflatables,” Cox said. “They enjoy getting a break and having fun!”
Shannon Morris, a School Resource Officer, said he’s passionate about GREAT because of the important topics the curriculum covers and the impact that meaningful conversations have on kids.
“It’s a unique experience to have these interactions, and that’s what makes it fun for me,” Morris said.
When Morris’ friends, family, and co-workers arrived, they enjoyed watching him play the role of their server.
“It’s humbling to see the tips coming in,” Morris said. “It’s great to see that people care as much as we do about the program.”
Debbie Cubberly, a teacher at Benjamin Franklin, attended ‘Tip a Cop’ to show her support and enjoy a delicious meal. She advocates for GREAT because of the vocabulary it provides to the students.
“Officer Cox does a wonderful job and is very important in our school,” Cubberly said. ”She works hard to build relationships with the kids and they trust her. We are lucky to have great resource officers in our schools.”
Peggy Hood, owner of Kelsey’s Steak House, said she looks forward to ‘Tip a Cop’ every April. She said it’s fun for the staff to have officers’ help and she enjoys supporting fundraising efforts of the Valparaiso Police Department.
“I love being in the position where I can help the community,” Hood said. “Police officers and fireman give so much and are under-appreciated. I am happy to help in any way I can.”
Balon would like to thank Kelsey’s Steak House for hosting the event and all the patrons who contributed to GREAT with ‘Tip a Cop.’
For more information about Valparaiso Kelsey’s Steakhouse, visit their website.