Diners were served entrees, not tickets, this week when police officers waited on tables at a local restaurant to raise money for Special Olympics athletes across the state.
The Rock Hill Police Department and the York County Law Enforcement Torch Run have raised over $17,000 this year for the state’s Special Olympics games, and officers believe they can meet their $20,000 goal, said Rock Hill Police Detective Phil Tripp.
Officers’ latest fundraising effort was Calabash & Cops, as police served up food and drinks to patrons at Fatz Cafe on South Herlong Avenue. Officers were busy serving lunch and dinner on Thursday and Friday.
Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts was on hand Friday afternoon to greet diners and open doors.
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“Our goal is to raise as much money and awareness for our Special Olympics athletes,” Watts said.
Tripp, who has served as the chairman for the York County Law Enforcement Torch Run since 2010, said, “We’re out here doing whatever is possible to raise money for the athletes – taking drink orders, getting bread baskets. It’s all for them.”
The torch run has proven to be a key fundraiser across the state for Special Olympics. Torches are carried from all corners of South Carolina to Columbia, before a torch is taken to Fort Jackson. Over 100 state agencies participate annually.
Loyd and Marie Schmid were seated among Friday’s restaurant patrons in Rock Hill. They said they have a handicapped son in Columbia who competes in the Special Olympics.
“I think it’s a good cause,” Loyd Schmid, 85, said of the police officers’ service.
Eric Gensemer, who works for the city of Rock Hill, said, “I think they went out of their way to make you feel as welcome as possible.”
Officer Jamie Faulkenberry said he was willing “to do it all – escorting people to their tables, helping out staff. It’s all for the greater good,” he said.
Envelopes were given to restaurant patrons if they chose to donate to the Special Olympics. Torch Run merchandise was sold at the entrance.
The Fatz Cafe restaurant franchise is a corporate sponsor of the Special Olympics. Joe Walsh, general manager of Fatz Cafe in Rock Hill, says that he opens his restaurant to allow several organizations to raise money.
“We provide the cooks and food. They sell the food, wait on tables, collect the money, and pay us for the food. We don’t make anything off of it. It’s just a way to be involved,” Walsh said.
Walsh, whose father was a police officer in Philadelphia for 25 years, said being around law enforcement and firefighters always felt “safe.”
“I always try to meet law enforcement in my area because that’s home,” he said. “I always try to see if there’s any way I can help out with their charities. Here in Rock Hill, the charity of choice for the police department is the Special Olympics.”
Gerald Goins, 58, said he is a regular at Fatz Cafe and liked the surprise of seeing police serving food to customers.
“You felt important when you see the chief of police holding the door for you,” he said.