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COMMUNITY ANGELS: Policing in York Region includes giving back to community

From the Holiday Heroes drive, Splash for Southlake to the Race for Plunkett and Special Olympics Polar Plunge, YRP members are making a difference that goes beyond keeping our communities safe
Karen Richards (centre) and the other members of the special events team received the Rob Plunkett Outstanding Service to the Community Award for their work on the Holiday Heroes campaign.

NewmarketToday continues its annual tradition of marking the giving season by celebrating Newmarket's Community Angels — the people whose kindness, compassion and community spirit help make our town one of the best to live in the country.

York Regional Police not only work to keep our communities safe, but to support those in need.

The force just wrapped up another successful Holiday Heroes campaign, supporting 137 families. It's just one of the many fundraisers the police service takes part in throughout the year. 

"For YRP, knowing that a ton of kids in our community are going to get the Christmas they deserve, that's what makes it important for our organization. It's not just a Christmas time, it's all year round," said Karen Richards, special events supervisor at YRP. 

The special events team is responsible for planning events like the Holiday Heroes drive and the many other initiatives that YRP does. 

In October, it was the Splash for Southlake, a swim in Lake Simcoe spearheaded by Const. Jodi Haugh who braved the cold water to raise money in honour of a friend and fellow YRP member undergoing chemotherapy. 

In June, it's the annual Race for Plunkett, which raises money for Special Olympics Ontario in memory of Rob Plunkett, a fallen YRP officer. 

In April, another member, Adam McEachern, took on a gruelling 24-hour fitness challenge to raise money for Kerry's Place in honour of his son who has autism spectrum disorder. 

In February, it was another fundraiser for Special Olympics Ontario, with YRP staff and officers joined by community members for a frigid polar plunge

"Those are all driven by our members, those initiatives and we just sort of helped those events happen," Richards said. 

She stressed that all these efforts at York Regional Police are team driven and that it comes from the top down. 

"Our chief (Jim MacSween) is a huge advocate for community work, for getting us involved in charities," she said. "It's the chief that champions this work and lets us go out into the community and do all of this work." 

While Richards is adamant that it isn't about her, she did admit that she thinks she has the best job at YRP. 

"I get to work with a lot of people. I get to interact with our community. I get to have community organizations come to us and sort of say what can we do to help and be really creative in ways that we can step up and and help them do things ... it really, really is rewarding that we get to be out there," she said. 

Other members of the special events team include Carrie Rutledge, Susan Gibbs and Melissa Styles. The whole team was honoured early this year when they received the Rob Plunkett Outstanding Service to the Community Award for their work on the Holiday Heroes campaign. 

"We're enormously proud of that award," Richards said. 

She said it is especially meaningful because through their work, they get to see the positive side of policing. 

"It's not an easy job to be a police officer and when we can provide them with opportunities that they can go and volunteer their time and have members of the community truly thank them for the work they do, that's why we do it, to see that positive side, because there's there's a lot of members of our community that need a hand up right now," she said.

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Elizabeth Keith

About the Author: Elizabeth Keith

Elizabeth Keith is a general assignment reporter. She graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2017. Elizabeth is passionate about telling local stories and creating community.
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