DECATUR — Connie Flemings and fellow members of Decatur's Women of the Moose Chapter 36 are aware of the many sacrifices law enforcement officers make while protecting the community.
To show the area's law enforcement that their work will never go unrecognized, Flemings' organization honored the Decatur Police Department and the Macon County Sheriff's Office during a ceremony on Thursday.
"We want them to know that we're behind them, we care for them and we want them to be safe here in Decatur," said Flemings, junior regent for the local Women of the Moose chapter. The nationwide organization is a sister auxiliary to the international Loyal Order of the Moose.
"We're hoping that people will realize how important they are," she said.
Dozens of people filled the Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge at 602 W. King St. to watch as a group of the area's finest were presented with special plaques and goodie bags filled with candy that bore special meanings — such as Life Savers, "to remind you of the many time you've been one."
Thursday's event was the first time the group had organized anything like this. The chapter has roots in service, donating time and resources to organizations like social services group Dove Inc. and homeless ministry God's Shelter of Love.
Following the lead of some of its sister chapters around the country, the local group thought there was no better time than the present to pay respect to the local law enforcement community.
"They put their lives on the line," said Senior Regent Gloria Brown. "We just want to show our appreciation for them."
Decatur Police Chief James Getz and Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett accepted the plaques on behalf of their departments. Both were imprinted with a colorful design that read "Real Heroes Don't Wear Capes."
Brown said the Women of the Moose put together 207 of the candy bags for members of both departments. She said 55 were made for the sheriff's office and 152 were made for the police, along with a few special treats for K-9 officers.
After the ceremony, all of the present law enforcement officials were given the opportunity to mingle with everyone who came to the event. Most conversations with the uniformed men and women began or ended with an expression of gratitude for their service.
Police Lt. Brad Allen and Deputy Chief Jason Walker both said it was a nice change of pace to be honored during such a casual and intimate display.
It may not be realistic for law enforcement to have the support of the entire community at all times, Allen said, but events like the Women of the Moose's appreciation ceremony can make a big difference to their morale and in the community's overall perception.
"Some people in this room may not have time to spend with us or they might not have ever been around an officer," Allen said. "So they might go out and tell everybody they know how we are and how much fun they had ... it's a way to kind of build support, too."
Sheriff's Lt. Jon Butts said the ceremony was a sign of how compassionate the local community is. Working in the line of duty can be tough at times, he said, but that wasn't the case Thursday night.
"It's a blessing," Butts said of the ceremony.