MOUNT PLEASANT — Inside the Lakeside Community Oriented Policing (COP) House in Mount Pleasant is a folder that holds a common item you normally see at grocery store check-out lines. However, Mount Pleasant police are using it in a new way.
The item: gift cards. The goal: avert a crisis.
It's all part of the new Project Blue Heart. Inside the folder are gift cards for fast food restaurants, Kwik Trip, and the Days Inn by Wyndham in Mount Pleasant. The goal is to offer a temporary solution to people who need help.
“I feel it’s important for our police department and our officers to have short-term resources readily available, especially during the pandemic," Officer Rachel Gardinier, who created the program, said.
When officers respond to a call, they are able to determine if it's appropriate to give someone involved one of these gift cards or both dependent on the situation. These vouchers aren't just given to anyone. It's up to the officer's discretion.
For instance, "Say their car broke down. They don’t have any money. It’s 10, 15 below zero," Officer Matt Kwapil said.
He added that if they were called to a domestic violence report and someone got arrested, there could be another person (potentially with children) left with nowhere to go. That's when the one-night hotel and food vouchers come into play. Essentially, police can give those involved a buffer time to figure things out.
"At least we have that resource, you know, if they have no money to say 'okay we're going to get you some McDonalds. We're going to get you some Burger King. We are going to get you a hotel for the night,'" Officer Kwapil said.
This program becomes especially important during the second and third shift. As it gets later in the night, many community resources close for the night. That could leave people stranded. Coupled with the added stress homeless shelters and other services are experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic, it means people can be stranded without any aid.
That's where Project Blue Heart shines. It gives people a buffer until the morning to come up with a plan of action.
The program was made possible by community donations from Crime Stoppers and the Mount Pleasant Citizens Police Academy Alumni. Project Blue Heart now has enough funds to last the entire year.
There are ways you can help too. Contact Officer Rachel Gardinier to get involved - (262) 664-7942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.