The newly organized Serving Our Servants group at St. Paul Lutheran Church went on its first mission a few weeks ago during the annual Frontier Days Parade.
They were armed with cold bottles of water and a few words that many police officers, firefighters, members of the military and emergency medical workers may not hear often enough: Thank you.
The Rev. Al Henderson, who helped organize the group, sees the work public servants do up close. He's also the chaplain for the Fort Dodge Police Department, Webster County Sheriff's Department and Post 7 of the Iowa State Patrol.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Rev. Al Henderson, center, looks over the Serving Our Servants logo with members Bill Hughett, left, and Larry Hedlund in Henderson’s office at St Paul Lutheran Church, 400 S. 13th St.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Rev. Al Henderson leads volunteers carrying supplies of water to the police officers and other rescue workers conducting a search of the Des Moines River for two youths who were reported to have gone into the floodwaters. Helping at situations like this is one of the ways the newly formed Serving our Servants group hopes to help public servants.
"Their calling is to serve the public," Henderson said. "We want to reverse roles and show them our support."
The genesis for forming the group came from participants in the first Citizen's Academy.
"There are so many citizens who really appreciate the work of these folks," he said. "They ask, 'What can they do?' We're providing a means."
SOS member Larry Hedlund, a former Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent, has seen plenty of situations where something as simple as that cold bottle of water can make an officer's day.
For example, a recent shooting incident in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood of Fort Dodge meant that several officers had to spend time keeping the perimeter secure.
"There are times when they can't leave," Hedlund said.
It's this type of scenario in which the SOS group can step up to help by providing cold water, insect repellent or snacks.
One thing the group is careful to emphasize, both for themselves and for anyone wanting to help on their own, is to be careful that the officers they're helping are in calm position and not in the middle of dealing with a potentially dangerous call.
"We don't want to interfere," Hedlund said. "Use common sense."
Carroll Teske, another member of the group, said that when they respond to situations, they will be wearing shirts and caps with the group's logo on them.
"They need to know we're the good guys," he said.
Another group member, Bill Hughett, said the shirts and caps prevent confusion.
"We don't want to just walk up randomly," he said.
Funding for the group has come from a $500 grant from Crime Stoppers and a $1,200 matching grant from the Iowa District West of the The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Henderson said.
He wants the group to serve even more agencies.
"We're looking at more of those in public service," Henderson said. "Look at the guy that drives the snowplow, for example."
But Hughett wants the message to stay the same.
"We want them to know that people care about you."
Anyone interested in helping the faith-based group with donations should contact it through its Facebook page, or by calling St. Paul Lutheran Church or a group member.