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Cops dish up Thanksgiving dinner at Decatur's Good Samaritan Inn

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"Because We Care Thanksgiving Dinner" organizer Jarmese Sherrod explains the aim and purpose of the event. 

DECATUR — Aprons and sidearms are an unusual way to serve a meal celebrating Thanksgiving, but no one was complaining Sunday afternoon.

Just the opposite, in fact, as law enforcement leaders from all over Macon County were among the volunteers dishing up the “Because We Care Thanksgiving Dinner” hosted at Decatur’s Good Samaritan Inn.

On the menu was Thanksgiving fare with a distinctly Southern twist. Turkey flew away in favor of fried chicken, which was backed up by mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce and a mouthwatering array of desserts.

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Concentration and a hair net made for a clean, streamlined operation as dozens of Thanksgiving meals were handed out on Sunday at Decatur's Good Samaritan Inn. Lt. Scott Rosenbery with the Decatur Police Department prepares to hand over one lunch, ready to go. 

The meal was organized by Jarmese Sherrod, who runs Sherrod’s Independent Mentoring Program Inc., and she was supported by sponsors ranging from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to Decatur Memorial Hospital and multiple law enforcement agencies.

The diners ate for free and were the invited clientele from the Salvation Army, Water Street Mission, Dove Inc., and many other service organizations who regularly deal with people who could use some help in their lives. Sunday marked the third year for the event, and up to 200 diners were expected to show up.  

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Blue Mound Police Chief Chad Lamb gets busy serving food Sunday at the "Because We Care Thanksgiving Dinner" at Decatur's Good Samaritan Inn.

Sherrod said a satisfying meal, served with a smile, is a great way to introduce people to each other. She wanted diners to meet with law enforcement and get to know the person behind the badge and the uniform as a way to build bridges in the wider community.

😋 Yes, we're open: Decatur-area restaurants open on Thanksgiving

“It’s about building positive relationships with law enforcement so that people get to know that law enforcement is here to support them,” Sherrod added. “And, in fact, to also know that all of Decatur loves them: We’ve also got volunteers helping out here today as young as middle school students and high school students. So for people who don’t have, say, the love and support of family around the holidays, we just want to love on them today with a great meal, and a lot of great desserts.”

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Gregory Wheeler, chief of police for Warrensburg and Oreana, stands ready for duty on the Thanksgiving chow line on Sunday at the Good Samaritan Inn in Decatur.

Over at the chow line, the ranks of uniformed and aproned officers were ready to hit the ground serving: “The old mindset is we protect and serve and, well, sometimes the serve part is food,” said a grinning Blue Mound Chief of Police, Chad Lamb.

“It’s good to be here seeing the smiles on people’s faces and knowing we’ve helped out in the community. It’s a fun day for everybody.”

Mount Zion Police Chief Adam Skundberg said serving the meal gives police a chance to engage with the public “outside of the law enforcement dynamic.”

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It didn't take long for a line to form at Sunday's "Because We Care Thanksgiving Dinner." The event was hosted at the Good Samaritan Inn, which reminds diners in need they can stop by for lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. 365 days a year.

And Gregory Wheeler, chief of police for Warrensburg and Oreana, said that can be an arresting new experience for both sides of the equation: “It allows somebody to see us as other than just a uniform,” he explained. “And it allows people to interact with us without having had a problem.”

For those who could use a good, free meal but weren’t able to make Sunday’s feast, the time of gifts is not over. Good Samaritan Inn Executive Director Nicky Besser reminds diners that the inn serves a free meal every day, 365 days a year, between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Those in too much of a hurry to sit down and eat hot food have the option of “taking a sack lunch out the window,” she said.

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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Related to this story

A meet-and-greet with 'Cocoa Santa' will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at The Salvation Army, with the free cupcakes for the first 250 kids. Details: 

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