MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Police Officers Steve Keiller and Cody Cottreau started volunteering at the St. Hyacinth Food pantry a few months ago.
"We end up stocking the food, bringing it out, giving it to the families and bringing it to their cars. And just kind of reaching out to them, talking to them and getting to know these people," Cottreau said of their duties at the food pantry.
Their work at the pantry is part of the department's community outreach program. The officers said it has allowed them to connect with community members who might not otherwise reach out to police.
"Some of them are surprised to see us here. Like, 'oh what are the cops doing here?' We're just here to help," said Keiller.
Over their time volunteering, they noticed a nine-year-old girl who always came alone to pick up food for her family, only ever asking for meat and milk. Officers Cottreau and Keiller thought this was odd and decided to reach out. They found out there were seven people in her family.
"So there was a lot of food that they would be given for the week that they were just not receiving. But because she was walking here without anything to carry the food back, she'd always just ask for the meat and milk," Cottreau said.
That day, Officer Cottreau drover her the few blocks back to her house with six to seven bags and a box full of groceries. There, he found out her mom is disabled and the rest of the family is doing what they can to help out.
"You could tell that they just needed a little extra help sometimes, and that's what we're here for," Cottreau said.
Officers Cottreau and Keiller wanted to help out even more and make it easier for the young girl to pick up groceries.
"We got a cart so, you know, in the future if we're not here or can't give her a ride, she can take all that food home," Keiller said.
They planned to surprise the family with the cart on Saturday. The family wasn't home at the time, so the officers left the cart for them with a note.
They want others in the community to know, they're there to lend a hand when needed.
"Maybe we can reach out to people who normally wouldn't be and help, just actually genuinely help," Cottreau said.