City public safety department serves up lunch to students

MANISTEE — When the lines of communication are opened between two groups, it opens the door for many more good things to follow in the future.

Manistee Public Safety director Tim Kozal (left) and other city police and fire department members served up lunch to students at Manistee Middle/High School on Wednesday. It was done as a way to open the lines of communication and building trust between the students and public safety department. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

Manistee Public Safety director Tim Kozal (left) and other city police and fire department members served up lunch to students at Manistee Middle/High School on Wednesday. It was done as a way to open the lines of communication and building trust between the students and public safety department. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

Administrators at City of Manistee Public Safety Department and the Manistee Area Public Schools are firm believers in that thought process. The two entities have been teaming up in a variety of projects that are opening those doors between students and public safety officials.

When the Manistee Middle/High School students came to the Commons Area on Wednesday for their regular lunch break they were greeted in a different fashion. Standing side-by-side with the the regular food service employees to serve up their lunch were smiling members of the City of Manistee Police and Fire Departments.

Manistee Public Safety Director Tim Kozal said the concept is all to show the students that officers and firemen are their friends and someone they can trust. It started first with officers being assigned to each of the local school buildings that they visit during their shifts on a regular basis and now expanded into Wednesday’s visit.

“We have officers in each school right now which is an initiative that we started to put our presence in the schools,” said Kozal. “I talked to the officer here and said why don’t you see about us serving lunch here.”

It was all a part of opening that line of communication up between the two groups.

“We wanted to show them that we are real people and to see us not just in a time of crisis and we are someone they can talk to,” said Kozal.

The interaction that took place on Wednesday was extremely positive as smiles could be seen on both sides of the serving line and laughter was heard in all corners of kitchen. What was more important is the officers greeted all of the students and exchanged a few words, which really seemed to leave a positive impact on the student body.

“We reached out to the school and they were very receptive to it,” said Kozal. “We are not just a police department as we are a public safety one and we have some of the fire department here today. I think it is going to be a good event.”

Kozal pointed out that it was their way of giving back to the community.

“We are not just going to end it here as our plans are to do it at the other schools in the community as well, so we are excited about it,” he said.

The group will be back helping the lunch program on March 13 at Kennedy Elementary School where they will be doing the same thing with the students and they hope to visit Manistee Catholic too.

Public safety department members who took part in the event besides Kozal were police officers Sgt.Tom Bruce, Doug VanSicke Jeff Pefley and firefighters Capt. Mark Cameron, Daniel Reck and Fred LaPoint.

Manistee Area Public School Food Service director Keri Carlson said she and her staff were pleased with the idea.

“It is awesome and I think it is a great idea,” said Carlson. “They will be helping in the kitchen to serve and then they will be going around to talk with the students as well. I was all for this idea and hopefully we can keep doing it in the future.”

Principal Andy Huber said that in light of recent events transpiring around the country in schools, programs like this help forge a strong new bond between students, teachers, law enforcement and the community.

“What is coming out of the recent school violence is schools, community organizations, law enforcement and first responders need to review everything we are doing and re-engage with our students in a positive way,” said Huber. “We really appreciate both the police and fire department and Tim (Kozal) taking the lead on this program.”

Huber said they need to figure out their protocols for communication and more importantly engage students in the process.

“What we have learned with the aftermath of recent events is the more comfortable our students are in trusting and approaching both us and our law enforcement is the only solution we have in terms of figuring out how to move forward,” he said. “We want to be out in front of this as best we can and I am hoping this will all lead to a better job of providing safety to all our students.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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