Feeding those on duty

From left, Immanuel Baptist Church volunteers Vickie Parrish, Paula Mallow and Donna Caldwell helped serve lunch to officers from the Lawton Police Department on Tuesday. It was part of a weekly program the church implemented while the COVID-19 pandemic shut down restaurants.

The daily schedule of a police officer rarely includes down time. That is why lunch time is so valuable. Not only does it allow them to replenish their bodies, but it also gives them a chance to do something as simple as sit down.

But with restaurants closed for weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, local first responders had few options to take a break and enjoy their meal.

When Joyce McCallick heard of this predicament from her husband, Lawton Police officer Mike McCallick, she wanted to help out somehow. And with the help of volunteers at Immanuel Baptist Church at Southwest 11th Street and Jefferson Avenue, local police officers soon had a place to gather weekly to sit, eat and briefly escape the chaos that comes with the badge.

Joyce’s mother, Paula Mallow, said the church first began the cause in late March, using money from the fund that normally helps feed the youth group. Mike, the church’s youth minister, signed off on it in large part because the pandemic had canceled the weekly youth group meetings.

“We’d feed them once, maybe twice a week, usually the night shift,” Mallow said.

A core group of four women (Mallow, McCallick, Donna Caldwell and Vickie Parrish) served as the backbone of the project, helping to arrange the meals and set up the seating from the beginning.

The group alternated between buying meals and cooking them from scratch, with the help of other volunteers from the church.

“We’ve done hamburgers, we’ve done hot dogs, one of the officers even donated some meat,” Parrish said.

With each passing week, more officers would come by, with close to 50 officers coming in on a consistent basis. And even if they had to leave early to answer a call from their scanners, it was still a moment of calm before the storm.

As more officers came, more help was needed. Local women from the church began baking desserts. As word of the project spread, help came from elsewhere. Comanche/Cotton Baptist Association Director Troy Taylor stopped by to donate money to help ensure the church could continue serving officers. The Oklahoma Baptist Relief Team donated as well.

But the project appears to have come to an end. Restaurants are beginning to re-open, and both Mallow and Parrish — who are full-time teachers — will likely have to go back to work soon. But even if Tuesday marked the last day of meals for officers at Immanuel Baptist, the feelings of goodwill and gratitude that were felt will remain on both ends.

“They were very appreciative,” Mallow said. “They serve and protect us. We were just looking for a way to serve them.”

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