Police cadets volunteer, connect with community
Written by Julie Borgen, Twin Cities Media Relations Director for The Salvation Army Northern Division
With a mission to serve hundreds of the most vulnerable people in Minneapolis, the staff at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center knows they simply can’t do it alone.
“We work with a population that often requires police intervention, so we need to work together,” explained Deidre Hoppe, volunteer coordinator at Harbor Light.
That’s something the Minneapolis Police Department recognizes, too. This year they started a new, unpaid internship program that places two police cadets as volunteers at more than a dozen social service organizations in Minneapolis – including Harbor Light and the Salvation Army centers on E. Lake St. and on NE Central Ave. in Minneapolis.
“The idea is to help them better learn and understand the community they’ll be serving,” explained Officer Jeff Parker with the Minneapolis Police Academy.
This week, police cadets Tony Partyka and Robert Heck (pictured) asked to volunteer at Harbor Light. Both men come from families that include Minneapolis police officers, and both were community service officers before entering the police academy.
“We know of (Harbor Light) from working in the community,” Partyka explained. “We knew this would be a good chance to learn more about the needs of the homeless population and how we can support them and the staff that works here.”
The cadets spent the week helping with everything from doing laundry to unloading pallets of donated food, all while learning as much as they could about the people at Harbor Light.
“It gives you a very different perspective on things,” Heck said. “It’s eye-opening to see the challenges homeless people face, and what the staff experiences, too.”
Hoppe says she’s impressed by how hard Partyka and Heck worked and how many great questions they asked. She appreciates the Minneapolis Police Department’s commitment to supporting Harbor Light.
“It helps forge that relationship,” Hoppe said. “The cadets gain an understanding of where our guests are coming from and what they deal with on a daily basis. It’s really awesome.”
Partyka and Heck say it’s been a valuable experience that will help make them better police officers when they graduate next month.
“We realized you don’t know what people are going through until you see it with your own eyes,” Partyka said. “If we can use our time and energy to make a positive impact, that’s what we’re here to do.”