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Serving those who serve

Group gives back to Fort Dodge’s public servants in big and small ways

-Messenger file photo
The Rev. Al Henderson displays the shirts that were given out to supporters of SOS at blood drives in response to the shooting in Las Vegas.

It started out as just a seed of an idea about five years ago when the Rev. Al Henderson was looking for a way to show appreciation to public servants.

The Serving Our Servants group was born.

“I thought we could do something for Jesus’ sake in Jesus’ name,” he said.

Early joiners included retired Fort Dodge Police Officer Rick Longnecker and Larry Hedlund, now also with the Fort Dodge Police Department.

There’s a few more onboard now.

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
Fort Dodge Police Officer Matt Webb, at left, poses for a picture with his new eight-point cap during shift change as Serving Our Servants founder Rev. Al Henderson takes his picture while then Chief Kevin Doty watches. Each officer in the department now has a new cap to wear with their Class A dress uniforms on formal occasions.

“I send out group texts to over 60 people now,” Henderson said.

Brent Johnson, of Fort Dodge, became involved after a personal experience.

“I’ve been affected by the servants of Fort Dodge on a personal basis,” Johnson said. “It’s a license to be nice.”

Jim Batcheller, of Fort Dodge, joined to help show his appreciation.

“I hope we let the responders know we care about them,” he said.

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
Serving Our Servants founder Rev. Al Henderson, right, poses with some of the members of the group dedicated to helping out those who serve the community in law enforcement, emergency medical services and firefighting. They are, from left, Brent Johnson, Jim Batcheller, Bill Hughett and T.J. Pingel.

For Bill Hughett, of Fort Dodge, it’s about helping relieve stress.

“They’re dealing with us when we’re having our worst moments,” he said. “It’s nice to reach out when we’re having a good day too.”

The list of SOS projects is extensive. It ranges from volunteers showing up with water and food at major incidents to raising money to buy the Fort Dodge police officers new dress caps that they can wear for formal occasions.

The Tops for Cops was Batcheller’s favorite project.

“I thought it was a needed thing,” he said.

The new hats instill a sense of pride and professionalism, Henderson said. The officers appreciate them.

He said that the public servants he works with are humble.

“If you pat them on the back,” he said. “They say I’m just doing my job. They’re used to no thank you. Our goal, anything is better than nothing.”

One of those “thank yous?” SOS helped fund the first department Christmas party.

“They decided this is a good thing,” he said. “We’ll do it again. To a man, this can’t be it, we’ll keep doing it. We’re hoping to do the same for the Webster County deputies.”

T.J. Pingel, of Fort Dodge, has been active with the group for about three years.

He helps out with their social media.

“I post when I’m told to,” he joked.

He too thought the public servants needed a thank you.

“They have a lot that don’t get the gratitude,” he said.

He’s hoping that the groups message of being appreciative of public servants expands.

“I’d like to not only see our group grow,” Pingel said, “but see more people treat servants and officers with more respect and give them thanks.”

SOS is primarily a Fort Dodge group, Henderson said. There are also members in Rockwell City and Webster City.

Henderson encourages people who like what they do to take up the torch elsewhere.

“Get started,” he said. “Don’t think and worry too much.”