To protect and serve

Edgartown seniors enjoy three-course meal made by police department.

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Edgartown Police put down their hats and picked up their chef’s toques to provide a luxurious and plentiful meal for seniors in the Edgartown School cafeteria Saturday, free of charge.

For the fifth year in a row, the department paired up with Edgartown Council on Aging at the Anchors to give back to longstanding community members and get more familiar with the aging population.

The three-course meal started with a creamy roasted tomato and garlic soup with garlic Parmesan croutons. The main course was a filet mignon, cooked to perfection and paired with a cranberry port reduction, served alongside goat cheese mashed potatoes and roasted baby vegetables.

Officer Michael Gazelle said the senior dinner has come a long way since it started in 2013 at the Edgartown fire station. “The first year we had chicken salad sandwiches for everyone,” Gazelle said. Now every department member can give his or her two cents in putting together the menu. Although police were grateful to the fire department for letting them use the facility, Gazelle said, there wasn’t as much space to cook and serve the meal. “There is so much more space here in the cafeteria, it’s actually really fun to cook in this big kitchen — it was a little cramped in the fire station,” he said.

Pat Johnson told The Times she most enjoyed the main course, although she said the tomato soup was “absolutely delicious.” Johnson has attended the event each year, and said that it gets better every time. “All the food was excellent, I can’t imagine how they got all those steaks to be perfectly cooked!” Johnson said.

Johnson said it is enjoyable for her to meet new friends at the event, and also catch up with her longtime pals. “I went alone this time, but I always end up meeting with friends and just having a great time,” Johnson said.

One thing Johnson said always surprises her is the size of the Edgartown Police force. “I didn’t know there were that many police officers in all of Edgartown; it would be a good time for someone to go rob a house,” she joked. Johnson said she greatly enjoyed the event, and is looking forward to the next one.

Of the 65 chairs available in the cafeteria, 63 of them were full before the appetizer was served. Officer Will Bishop said he is happy to see so many people enjoying their food and chatting. He mentioned one goal of the event was to get familiar with the seniors in Edgartown and interact with them outside the usual work environment. “We have some new faces on the force, so we want to make sure everyone gets familiar with each other,” he said. “We want people to feel comfortable with the department; if we show up to your house, we want you to feel comfortable and safe.”

Bishop made a shout-out to the Edgartown Council on Aging for their help in organizing the event and making sure seniors were notified. “They are here on their days off, so we are very thankful to them,” Bishop said.

After serving the main course, Bishop looked over at a table filled with folks laughing and conversing. “That’s my grandma’s table, she had it reserved. We have to keep an eye on them,” he said jokingly.

Sergeant Jonathan Searle pointed through the kitchen windows to his mother, who was sitting with a group of friends. “It is so good to give back to the woman who made me so many meals — I mean, she raised me,” Searle said. “You have people here who have given a lot to the community — we are just trying to repay the favor.”

Searle, Bishop, and many other members of the department attended the Edgartown School. “It’s fun to see my teachers because it reminds me of when I went to the old school when I was a kid,” Bishop said.

Chief Bruce McNamee said he never saw a police force more inclined to connect with the community on a personal level. “You have to understand, this isn’t the standard off-Island,” McNamee said. “You don’t see police departments coming together to cook for the community. This is incredibly unique to Edgartown.”

Department assistant Maria Ventura said it was her first year helping with this event. “I do a little bit of everything to help out,” she said. “This is such a unique community in Edgartown. Everyone really wants to connect.”

Ventura explained how people in the elder community are often the ones who wait the longest to call 911. “It’s very helpful to build a relationship with them, so they can feel confident if they ever need assistance,” she said.

Member of the Edgartown Council on Aging Victoria Haeselbarth said the council works closely with police and emergency services to protect seniors and identify those who are vulnerable. Haeselbarth said a new program called “Safe Seniors” is a joint effort between the council, police, and EMTs to check smoke detectors in senior homes and perform periodic safety checks if a vulnerable senior is identified.

The event is, according to Haeselbarth, an example of a rare “interorganizational connection” that brings multiple benevolent community elements together. “We are lucky to have such a caring town. Lots of people are involved in this; it is one big team effort,” Haeselbarth said.

Another member of the council, Paul Mohair, said the event is always a success. “We have some great food options available this time around,” Mohair said. “We get more organized every year, and the event continues to grow.”