Officer cadets carve money-maker for Latimer House

Three-year-old Shaun Paulson and his father, Eric Paulson, carve a pumpkin at the Lincoln Park Barn on Saturday.

The pumpkins were a ploy, and 9-year-old Tommy Steokman bit.

Tommy spent his Saturday morning carving pumpkins with his brother, Justin Messick, 6, and other family members as part of the Carving for Cans event held by the cadets at the Western Colorado Peace Officers Academy.

The 24 members of this year’s graduating class with law enforcement career aspirations were required to do a community service project and thought a pumpkin-carving event would engage the community while getting donations of canned goods or cash for Latimer House.

“We want to leave our mark,” said cadet Chad Simpson, 25, who will become a sworn officer with the Grand Junction Police Department after his December graduation. “We wanted to do a canned food drive but also have fun and get the community involved. Not a lot of kids get to interact with law enforcement” and some children may not view law enforcement positively, Simpson added.

That’s where the pumpkins came in.

The cadets got donations of materials from Moon Farm, Okagawa Farms and the Special Olympics, as well as local grocery stores, and invited the community to the informal event at Lincoln Park Barn.

The cadets milled around the open room, helping children, offering words of encouragement and fetching pumpkins when needed.

Tommy didn’t need much help, at least not with the carving. After his uncle drew on a mean face because “I’m not good at drawing,” Tommy took his small jagged-tooth tool and cut out eyes and furrowed eyebrows.

The children took the pumpkins home, along with other Halloween treats from the peace officers.

Tommy said it was a fun day. It was the reaction the cadets wanted.

“They came up with an imaginative project,” said Bill Gardner, a retired Grand Junction police chief and current director of the academy at Western Colorado Community College. “Their idea (was) to create a good image between children and peace officers.”


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