Incidents of police officer shootings across the nation in recent months have sparked residents in Jackson County to provide support for local first responders in a variety of ways.
Two Seymour churches have started prayer projects, a nursing home conducted a hometown heroes breakfast and individuals have provided gift cards and food as “thank-yous.”
Central Christian Church’s prayer project involves members of the congregation praying for local police officers, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, emergency medical services personnel, state troopers and conservation officers.
Each church member received a slip of paper with a name of a local first responder and the agency they serve. Their task is to pray for that person as they protect and serve.
“I think all of us have come to realize that our first responders are out there putting themselves in a precarious position, a place of danger many times day in and day out without our appreciation or recognition,” said Jon Carlstrom, transitional senior pastor at Central Christian Church. “We take them for granted, and I think to specifically acknowledge them through this is an important thing.”
Claudia Huddleston, administrative assistant at the church, contacted each of the local agencies, and she said all of them were willing to share names of their personnel.
“They were so touched and so thankful that somebody’s doing something, so we know that our officers and our EMTs and all of the emergency personnel here are covered in prayer. That’s essential,” she said.
Dennis Brasher, executive director of Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, said he appreciates the church’s gesture.
“Any time we can kind of band together with the local churches and so forth like that, I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “It’s good to have them pray for us and what we’re doing out there. Our people get sent to a lot of dangerous situations out there, and it’s good to have people thinking of us.”
Some of the 200-plus names of local first responders were drawn by more than one person, and Carlstrom said that’s OK because it means that much more prayer is being offered.
Carlstrom was a law enforcement chaplain in Marion County for 12 years, where he realized the dangers police officers face while responding to a variety of calls. He also covered deaths of police officers.
“I know firsthand the stress and the dynamics and the peril that these people face, and it can happen so easily in any given situation,” he said. “Officers are really in danger, and if they second guess themselves, sometimes, it puts them in greater peril. They are at great risk, and it seems more pronounced in these days than I’ve seen in the history of my ministry.”
The prayer project is personal for Huddleston. Her husband used to be the chaplain with the Seymour Police Department, and her nephew currently is an officer with that agency.
“Every time I hear any siren at all, I just start praying over again, and I think many people in the church are doing the same thing,” she said. “I think it does help us to be able to do something for them, and because it’s prayer, we’re doing everything for them. We’re putting a prayer shield around them. And for that reason, to have lots and lots of people praying for our officers personally, that’s important stuff.”
Brenda Labie, the church’s office assistant, said she has relied on Seymour police officers at times.
“Trying to help them when they help me is something I definitely want to do,” she said. “These are people that live and work in our county, and I want them to be safe, as well. After you’re seeing what’s happening on the news (with police shootings), you just have this urge that you want to do something to make things peaceful and to be caring about them, as well.”
Carlstrom said the congregation has been been excited to participate in the prayer project, and he hopes the outcome is a deeper appreciation of first responders and their efforts and commitment.
“You can generally announce in the prayer time of the congregation, ‘We’re going to pray for first responders today’ and make it kind of a general prayer concern,” he said. “But to do it specifically, to have a name … they are before us and with us all of the time.”
At Seymour Christian Church, members are participating in Operation COP, or Covering Officers with Prayer.
Pastor Bill Lockman said he received the names of the 42 officers with the Seymour Police Department. Families drew one of those names and are asked to commit to praying for that officer every day for the rest of the year.
“We just challenged our people to be prayer warriors for these guys because never has there been a time that I can remember where being a police officer is never more dangerous or scary than now with what has happened here recently,” said Lockman, who was a Seymour police officer for three years in the 1970s.
It’s up to the families to determine how to let the officers know they are a valuable asset to the community, Lockman said.
“Every time they put on a uniform on and clock in, they put their lives on the line,” he said. “We are seeing that more and more and more.”
Another show of support for police recently occurred at Burger King in Seymour.
Richard Hanlin, chief of the Crothersville Police Department, and Shane Collier, a reserve deputy with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, were eating there when 5-year-old Rylan Bradley and his mother, Lindsay, walked up to their table. The boy thanked the officers for what they do and presented them with Burger King gift cards.
The officers thanked Rylan, shook his hand and took a picture with him. That picture was posted on Crothersville Police Department’s Facebook page and received hundreds of “likes” and shares and several comments.
“For Shane and I, it meant a lot and that there are good people who care about the police and definitely are there to show police there is strong support for us and what we do,” Hanlin said. “We are not just bad people in uniforms. We are also regular people doing a job to protect other people and property along with enforcing the laws so people can feel safe.”
Collier said Rylan told them he wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
“I shook his hand and thanked him for the nice gesture and told him to keep it up. I also told him to obey his parents and work hard in school and someday he too would be a policeman,” Collier said.
“This really showed us that there are people who care and appreciate what police officers do,” he said. “It also was nice to see that young boy was being taught respect and how to show love for others in a world full of hate and violence.”