Saturday, November 29, 2014

Operation Blue Santa

Operation Blue Santa, Fill the Cruiser Toy Drive, collected toys for underprivileged kids in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, on November 28th, Black Friday, 2014. If you missed us at Walmart yesterday, you can still drop off a new, unwrapped toy at the Wheat Ridge Police Department at 7500 W 29th Ave, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033 until December 9th, 2014. 

It was a beautiful day for volunteering for such a worthy cause. The temperature reached a balmy 70 degrees so the shoppers at Walmart were cheerful and generous in their donations. Blue Santa and Police Officers along with us three Wheat Ridge Police Volunteers handed out candy canes as we collected the donated toys. 

This was the 1st Annual Operation Blue Santa. It was a combined effort between the Wheat Ridge Police Department, Wheat Ridge Optimists Club, Wheat Ridge High School and Walmart at 3600 Youngfield in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Blue Santa has been participating in Christmas activities for many years. He's no stranger to young ones sitting on his lap telling him of their heart's desires. 

This year one little guy even got to meet Santa for the first time. You can see his picture on the Wheat Ridge Police Department Facebook page. Every year Blue Santa always has a special story that tugs at his heart. A favorite story is the time he was at a Christmas party and before a little girl could sit on his lap,  Santa was told that all she was going to ask for was for her daddy to come home for Christmas. Her daddy was serving in the military in Afghanistan.  As it was her daddy was going to be home for Christmas but the family wanted Blue Santa to be the one to promise to bring him home. What a special Christmas blessing for Santa. 

And it's not just the little ones that like to talk to Santa. Here is one of the volunteers, Helen, with Blue Santa. 

With the lights on the police cruisers blinking in front of Walmart and Blue Santa sitting in his chair, it was an inviting opportunity to welcome Black Friday shoppers. Shy children carried their gifts to donate accepting their candy canes in return. Adults cheerfully chatted as they handed over their gifts. It was obvious the shoppers were having a wonderful time picking out gifts to pass on. Those of us collecting the presents marveled at the variety and fun we were gathering. 

I would say that Operation Blue Santa was a huge success for the first year. Keep an ear tuned into the fun next year. I hope I'll see you there. 

Palmer's Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe, Sioux City, Iowa

On a recent trip to Sioux City, Iowa, I spotted this store front. Palmer's Candy Company immediately became a must-go-to spot on my itinerary. 

Walking in the front door told me I had struck gold. Look at the cute stairway and inviting sights that welcomed me.

As my eyes and taste buds eagerly scanned the store I saw display upon display of candies of every kind. 

Bulk candies in plastic covered boxes gave a huge challenge to my sweet tooth. I wanted bags of everything. 

More candy!

While drooling my way through Palmer's, I had no trouble finding the signature Bing candy bar for which Palmer's Candy Company is known. It was first made in 1923 and today the Cherry Bing is still produced by hand. 

Here is what the Cherry Bing looks like after a big bite. Of course I "had" to buy some to try. 

Wandering past the candy I was then treated to the section of specialty foods Palmer's offers. There were samples available of the Maple Bacon and Onion Jam served over cream cheese with crackers. With one bite  I picked up a jar to come home with me. It was a struggle not to buy one of everything else they offered. 

Rounding the corner once again I came face to face with the glass cases of exquisite chocolates, fudge and truffles. 

I knew I didn't dare eat all this wonderful temptation myself so the peanut butter fudge I bought became a gift for my lucky niece who I was visiting next. 

To wear off the virtual calories I was absorbing on this self-guided tour, I turned my attention to the museum and artifacts that lined a wall showing the history of this candy company that had started over 135 years ago. Five generations have kept this treasure alive. 

The museum included this bright red chocolate enrober (above) from which chocolate water-fell over the pieces passing through the machine. This model was made in Paris and was used in the 1900's. Also in the museum was a drop roller sucker press. It boasted it's ability to make an unusual double ended ball pop sucker that challenged a person to eat it without getting sticky. 

Below is the Candy Cutter and Former. 

Taffy pullers, copper cooking kettles and antique pictures, advertising and other company artifacts are nicely displayed. The years and history of Palmer's is proudly exhibited. 

I made three trips to Palmer's in one day. The first visit was just a quick run through in which I knew I had to come back. The second visit was to go slow and absorb the smell of chocolate and eat up the eye candy. The third visit was for pictures for this post. I am surprised I didn't go hog wild in buying things but I did use some self control. Besides the Bings and the bacon jam, some divinity and this package of "the best ever" chocolate dipped potato chips did follow me out the door. A sweet life indeed. 

If you want to visit in person or order any of these yummies you can find them here:
Palmer's Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe
405 Wesley Parkway
Sioux City, IA 51103


Vintage Windmills: Sentinels of the Prairie

A collection of vintage windmills was a delightful sight on a recent road trip across Nebraska. Cruising along US Hwy 20 near Jackson the rolling hills suddenly sprouted a view worthy of turning our car around for a closer look.

Panorama views of the Sentinels of the Prairie

These restored vintage windmills are a rare collection of mills from the 1880's to the late 1930's. Mr. Leonard Gill who is the owner of the property and the nearby landfill invites visitors to wander through the area reading the signs giving the history of many of the windmills. 

Bob-Tailed Raymond windmill is the yellow  mill below. It was made by Althouse Wheeler Corporation of Waupun, Wisconsin between the 1870's thru the mid 1890's. The exact age of this particular windmill is unknown but it is very old and very rare. Its iron of the mill was found near Milford, Iowa in 1995 among old farm machinery. The next two windmills behind the Bob-Tailed Raymond are named Perkins. They are very attractive, expensive and very rare. 

Colorful and stately mills add a delightful touch to the surrounding hills and rural life. 

The picture below is one of my favorite windmill pictures. The stately silhouettes and bare trees against the sky remind me of my childhood days traveling across the Nebraska farm lands on our way to visit my grandparents' ranch in the Sandhills.

Dempster No 9 is a "solid wheel" windmill, meaning it doesn't fold up. It was made with a large vane as the newer steel windmills were. These mills were made by the Dempster Manufacturing Company of Beatrice, Nebraska, between 1908 and 1925. This mill was found on a farm west of West Point, Nebraska in 1998. It was on the ground among old machinery. 

Below is the Pipe Raymond. Below it is the picture of the sign telling the history of this windmill. 

This very tall windmill is the Elgin "Model E" produced first in 1900 and continued to be made until 1915. It was available only with a steel folding wheel. It was referred to as the Hummer. 

Signs of description were not available for the pictures of the next two windmills below. Many of these windmills were pieced together from four or five similar mills. Perhaps the details were not exactly determined but I love the form and designs of these. The painting on so many of these windmills makes them especially attractive. 

This windmill reflects the very large wind turbines we now see  across the country in windmill farms. This design is characterized by it's three rotary blades. Again there is no description available but I suspect it's one of the more recent varieties. 

In the past every farm had a windmill to feed their animals, grind corn and to pull the water from deep below the surface. It was a sign to travelers that people lived nearby and that it would be a welcome stop especially during the hot summer months in Nebraska.  Around this collection of windmills was the typical sights of the midwest. Animals, tractors and rolling hills of grain reflected the history of our early settlers and the lives of those continuing to work the land. 

As I ponder our beautiful homeland I am drawn to thinking of the song America the Beautiful reflecting on it's amber waves of grain. As a Nebraska native I smile to see how this collection of vintage windmills amid the fields of grain uphold the important rural heritage that is a proud part of the USA. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Citizen Police Academy and Volunteer Opportunities

I took my first Citizens Police Academy in the Spring of 2004. Now 14 years later and many volunteer hours under my belt with police departments and a President's Volunteer Service Award, I'm still going strong. 
The Start of my Police Volunteering Career

Back in my college days Criminal Justice was a fascinating career to me. I had tinkered with turning my Medical Technology degree (with hospital training) into a forensics career with the FBI. I never followed through on that but citizen police academies, now in my senior years, fills that intrigue I've had all this time.
Working an event with the Arvada Police Academy Alumni Association

In the four academies I've been through I've toured the Jeffco corner's office, driven police cars, learned how to search buildings, hands-on training in firearm use, hobnobbed with the Swat teams, learned fingerprinting, met K-9s, visited dispatch, learned radio use, basic law, patrol procedures, media relations, crime prevention, information on gangs, tours of jails and holding cells. Each academy I participated in, I learned more. 
Behind the wheel on the way to the car wash.

I have had such wonder experiences being on the right side of the law. I have found the police officers that have offered training, ride-alongs, and those I've been on calls with to be an amazing group of dedicated professionals. 
Volunteering at the Wheat Ridge Carnation Festival

Currently I'm taking the Wheat Ridge Police Department's Volunteer Academy. I graduated from their Citizen Police Academy in 2006. I have worked the Wheat Ridge Carnation Festival (above), drove their police cars to the car wash (photo above) and maintenance, I was in the Health Elevations Magazine (A Journal of The Colorado Health Foundation) in an article about Wheat Ridge Police Department's Walk and Watch program along with participating in additional training opportunities. I hope I don't get myself in trouble when I say that the Wheat Ridge Police Department is my favorite. Maybe one day I'll do a post on them alone.
Walking Prospect Park, Wheat Ridge, CO, in the Walk and Watch Program

Another of my most beloved experiences with a police department was being a Victim Advocate. I had learned about this volunteer experience when I had taken my first Citizens Police Academy in Arvada. I had my 40 hours of training and my very first call out was with the Arvada  Police Department. It was a suicide call and I knew I had found my calling with that first experience.  After a year with very few call outs my frustration led me to the Lakewood Police Department Victim Assistance group. Lakewood is the third largest city in Colorado so it has plenty of need for trained volunteers. I had taken their Citizens Police Academy in 2005. I was also on the Lakewood Police Volunteer Surveillance Team. I did a stake out one night and the thief never showed up but every time the door opened (I was in another room watching a monitor) my heart raced wondering if this was the person we were after. 
On call at the Lakewood Police Department

While volunteering as a Victim Advocate with the Lakewood Police Department I had a pager and a radio and responded when dispatch called. Sometimes the calls came in the middle of the night but needs will arise at any time day or night. On Saturday nights a partner and I would drive around the city of Lakewood in a police van with many antennae on top! We referred to it as being "mobile". We listened to the dispatch radio and if a call was likely to need our assistance we could readily be on scene. Calls could range from domestic violence, rapes, suicide, unattended deaths, car accidents, injured children, shootings to name just a few situations. Court was another part of being a victim advocate. I've sat through many hearings with the victim at my side listening to the perpetrator, whether in person or on jail TV coming before the judge. Yearly I attended the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA) conferences. Wonderful presentations furthered our education.  Often people have told me they don't know how I could do such things involved in being a Victim Advocate as they wouldn't be able to handle the traumas I saw. It was a calling I had and therefore I could do it. 
Heading out in the mobile van with radio, pager and book of references

Another Citizen Academy I took was with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office is awesome and I really enjoyed their classes. The Sheriff and Deputies cover a large area, some of it in mountainous regions which is tricky if you are looking for an address. I'm a city girl so that is why in my volunteering, especially when on night calls, I prefer city addresses and I learned to trust my GPS when the streets were oh so dark. 
My Sheriff's badge from the Jeffco Academy

Meeting people in the worse moments of their lives takes a great deal of empathy and understanding of the situations involved. I was most fortunate to receive additional education through a series of classes offered at Regis University by the Denver Police Department. The series was intense and focused on family, school, gang violence and sexual homicide. It was quite an eye opener for me. The professionals in these fields are brilliant people knowing how to work with and counsel these cases.

Being in an academy, we are encouraged to do ride-alongs with officers on duty. One of the most exciting rides I was on involved lights and sirens and a skidding turn around. I thought I was in for some excitement when the officer suddenly pulled up to the curb and told me to "get out." As I quickly jumped out and the car sped off, I stood on a corner at midnight thinking "I left my sweater and bag in the car and besides I'm missing all the fun." There was a report of shots being fired and the good policeman was watching out for me. He came and scooped me up about 15 minutes later and explained he'd rather that if shots were being fired it would be only at him and not me. Another time the car I was riding in got stuck on ice and the officer had me drive while he pushed. It was a cold Colorado night ride-along that turned out to be quite fun. More often than not, the officers request we stay in the car if they have to investigate something. However one time I was invited to accompany the officer as we sprinted through the grassy yard of an apartment complex looking for a report of noise.  

Sometimes the Police Cars are referred to as the Black and White Taxi, especially if one has to be sent to pick a volunteer up if they locked their keys in a car (wasn't me!)

Since volunteers are an important part of the police department team we wear identifying outfits. Usually it's a shirt and lanyard with a photo identification. As a Victim Advocate we also had coats that kept us warm on our wintry nights. The volunteers at Wheat Ridge have a full uniform to identify them. 
Wheat Ridge Police Volunteer patch worn on uniform

Lakewood Police Victim Assistance Volunteer shirt and lanyard

Lakewood Police Victim Assistant Volunteer winter coat with embroidered badge

When going out on call with the police departments sitting through roll call at the start of the shift is very interesting. It's at this time that the police officers are briefed about the evening ahead and what is currently happening, who to watch for, past reports from previous shifts. and what area each officer will be patrolling. By being present at roll call as a victim advocate the officers also knew who would be available for them to call on. It is a wonderful working relationship. 

Most citizens are oblivious to what really happens in the life of law enforcement. There is a history of each jurisdiction and many community relations programs to teach their citizens. One of the most impressive programs I've ever experienced is Aware and Alive. It brings home what distracted driving can cause and how important seat belt use is. If you're in the Colorado area I strongly recommend this for any driver. especially the young drivers. 

If any part of this post caught your attention. check out the citizen police academies in your area. It's a most informative and interesting way to spend one night a week for 10-12 weeks. I know you'll enjoy it.