February 20, 2017 was a tragic day for Whittier, California. Officer Keith Boyer’s life was taken in the line of duty. Whittier has not lost a police officer since the late 1970’s, so the news of this was shocking and heartbreaking. Boyer had been a police officer for twenty-seven years, and was close to retirement. He was highly respected and loved by his family, peers, coworkers and supervisors and will always be remembered as a hero.
In the midst of this tragedy, the people and churches united together to support those who risk their lives for us every single day. For many in the community, one question came to mind: How can we, as citizens of Whittier, let you, Whittier Police Department, know that we aren’t just sad for you, but that we are here to support you during this sad time? It was our turn to care for them.
With that in mind, many people of our community came together to offer support. People donated gift cards for coffee and restaurants for officers to get a quick bite to eat or drink while on duty. “Whittier Strong” buttons were made and distributed to the community to wear and show their love for this city and its police officers. Local businesses have been raising money and donating it to the police department.
The church community has also come around the Whittier Police Department. On February 25th, Whittier Area Community Church (WACC) hosted their 6th annual Car Show. Feeling affected by everything that happened earlier that week, the car show committee wanted to do something to show their support. They decided to give all T-shirt and raffle proceeds to The Whittier Police Officers Association (http://whittierpoa.org), not really knowing what to expect. Many of the car show attendees heard about what they were doing and decided to donate $40, $60 and even $100 for a single t-shirt as a thank you for the sacrifices that police officers make daily. By the end of the day, the car show had raised $20,000. When the church heard about how much was raised, they decided to double it, bringing the total up to $40,000. An anonymous donor who attended the car show was so moved by what happened, he committed to donate $100,000.
The following day, Sunday, February 26th, WACC had an opportunity after every service for their church members to write letters of encouragement and thank you cards to the Whittier Police Department. Flower arrangements were sent to the department, officers that were close to Boyer, as well as officers that are church members, to let them know there is family here to support them as well. Signs that say “Pray for Whittier PD” have been printed and placed on each corner of the church property, encouraging all of Whittier to keep these men and women in their prayers. The church is also looking into long term efforts to help support Whittier PD and everything they do for this city.
Love Whittier will be on May 20th this year and one thing we will be doing is having an encouragement banner at our Love Whittier celebration BBQ that everyone can sign to give to our PD. We are still looking into other ways that we can support them that weekend.
In a time when the news is often full of sad stories, it’s encouraging to see how a community can come together. It’s easy to live our lives forgetting that there are men and women out there who are risking their lives to protect ours. There are so many things that go on around us that we don’t know about because they make sure the situation is under control. If you come in contact with one of those men and women, take a moment to say “thank you,” they don’t hear it enough.
Keep in mind, prayer is a powerful thing, so pray for your police officers and pray for your city.
~Jessica Williams is on staff at Whittier Area Community Church and Leader of Love Whittier. If you are interested in learning more, including ways to support the Whittier PD, please check out LoveWhittier.org.