Geneseo church to honor "Hometown Heroes"

by Claudia Loucks correspondent
Reid Kalapp, left; Ramona VanLoo and Teanna VanLoo choose pictures for the Geneseo First Baptist Church children’s Sunday school classes to color prior to taking them to the Geneseo Police Station to honor “Hometown Heroes.”

The congregation at First Baptist Church in Geneseo has found a way to continue to recognize first responders, even in the midst of the current pandemic.

At the end of the year in 2018, the congregation added an event to their church calendar.

The Rev. David Murphy, church pastor, said the church wanted to show appreciation to police officers, fire fighters, dispatchers and other first responders by hosting a breakfast in their honor.

The idea to honor the “heroes” stems back to 2018 when the congregation was planning their 2019 calendar and they noticed that on Jan. 9, the nation recognizes LEAD (Law Enforcement Appreciation Day).

“Information from the LEAD website states ‘National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day’ was founded in 2015 to thank officers across the country for all the daily sacrifices they make for their communities,” Murphy said.

On Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, the church hosted an “Honoring Hometown Heroes” breakfast for the police officers and other first responders.

A similar event was planned for Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, but had to be cancelled due to inclement weather.

“Because of Covid-19, we can’t have the breakfast this year, but our church still wants to honor the first responders to express our gratitude,” Murphy said.

On Sunday, Jan. 10, some of the children in the congregation at First Baptist will travel to the Geneseo Police Station to present the officers with gift cards, notes and other items of appreciation.

“In a day when people are trying to tear down and to defund the police, we want them to know how important they are to us and we want to show our support and encourage them,” he said.

Police Chief Casey Disterhoft expressed appreciation for the efforts from First Baptist, and said it is an honor to be part of the “Honoring Hometown Heroes,” and be recognized by the First Baptist Church and community.

“So much of the work we do involves serving others and being united with our community,” he said. “Showing appreciation and receiving appreciation connects us more and gives all of us the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.”

“Connecting” has been difficult this year and Disterhoft said, “Everything has been different in this last year because of Covid-19. We had so many things planned that we had to evaluate and find safe ways to complete those events because of the pandemic. If we weren’t under specific guidelines as a result of the virus, we would be having more in-person contact with the community.”

Reaching out to the community is a ministry Murphy feels strongly about. Not long after he came to Geneseo in 2016 to serve First Baptist Church, he said, “We began discussing different ideas of how we could reach out to our community, establish relationships, and to show people we care. One of the ideas was to honor civil servants.”

“People in the police department and the fire department are always serving our community and putting themselves in harm’s way for our safety,” Murphy said. “We believe any time we can show respect and honor to our military and to our policemen, we should take that opportunity. After all, they are the ones that give us our freedoms.”