American Legion honors local law enforcement with spaghetti dinner

Port Huron police Officer William Sharp laughs while sitting with Lt. Joseph Platzer, left, and others during a law enforcement appreciation dinner Wednesday at the Charles A. Hammond American Legion Post 8 in Port Huron. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

Port Huron Police Officer William Sharp laughs while sitting with Lt. Joseph Platzer, left, and others during a law enforcement appreciation dinner Wednesday at the Charles A. Hammond American Legion in Port Huron. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

Dressed in regular street clothes, Lt. Marcy Kuehn sat with her family and enjoyed a free meal for her services as a public defender.

The Charles A. Hammond American Legion Post 8 in Port Huron had a law enforcement appreciation dinner Wednesday night where officers ate for free.

As a member of the Port Huron Police Department, Kuehn said it was a wonderful gesture by the American Legion to put on the evening event.

Kuehn was there with her husband and three children — ages 8, 6 and 3.

“I was really touched by the anonymous donation that was given,” she said. “It’s nice to look around and see all these officers here.”

Within the first hour, more than 70 people packed into the legion’s main hall. Those who are not members of law enforcement paid $6 at the door.

Chuck Teller, finance officer for the legion and organizer of the event, said the law enforcement appreciation dinner was a long time coming for the boys in blue.

“We just wanted to let our officers know we support them,” he said. “With the national exposure of what has been going on with police officers around the country, we wanted to show there were no problems like that here.”

Three weeks ago, Teller began handing out fliers to police departments in the county. From there organizers and volunteers went into work mode, collecting food for the event.

With two long tables placed at the front of the hall, diners lined up and had their fill of spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. Dessert was at the front entrance next to volunteers who poured beverages.

Behind the scenes in the kitchen, Colleen Campbell was cooking 100 pounds of spaghetti in five large stock pots.

Campbell, who is the post’s house manager, began cooking the day before in preparation for the crowd.

“I make my own sauce from diced tomatoes,” she said. “We’ve also had to use 90 pounds of hamburger.”

Some of the food was donated from businesses and members of the Port Huron community, Leslie said.

A semi-retired member of the post purchased all the required food that wasn’t donated, Leslie said. Another benefactor, who wished to remain anonymous, donated $1,000 for the three-hour event so officers’ families also ate free.

Leslie said there is a link between the veterans at the post and the officers from the Blue Water Area, which can be considered “a brotherhood.”

“There is special bond there that goes hand-in-hand,” he said. “A large percentage of law enforcement are ex-military, and they moved into these service jobs. They relate to us, and we felt it was high time for us as veterans to say ‘thank you.'”

Leslie said the post and its board will consider having the appreciation dinner every year, while possibly doing something for fire departments and EMS.

Proceeds go to Thin Blue Line of Michigan, a nonprofit charity that provides support and assistance to families of law enforcement officers injured or killed in the line of duty.

Teller had called a couple of police departments to see what charity would be the best fit for donated funds.

“They pretty much were unanimous about Thin Blue Line,” Teller said. “It’s nice because it also encompasses firefighters and first responders.”

Capt. Ron Muxlow was in attendance for the spaghetti dinner along with a few coworkers from the St. Clair County Sheriff Department.

He first learned about the dinner a couple of weeks ago at his office when Teller began handing out fliers.

“It’s nice to have someone show appreciation for what we do every day as officers,” Muxlow said. “I’d like to thank the veterans who put this on and anyone else who was a part of this.”

Police Lt. Scott Pike said he had been looking forward to spending some time away from police work with residents.

“We take advantage of any chance we get to come out and rub elbows with the community,” Pike said. “It’s nice to see so many people care about what we do. Our ability to work together and get things done is much more probable this way.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 21, 2014)

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