NEWARK — The familiar phrase attached to law enforcement is “protect and serve,” and on May 25, recruits from Delaware’s Basic Officer Training Course put the second half of that into practice. As has become the custom in the state Department of Corrections, the soon-to-be corrections, police, and probation and parole officers spent a day in service to others.
This year, 16 recruits and some of their superiors traveled to Marydale Retirement Village, the 108-unit subsidized housing for seniors on Salem Church Road. The men and women pulled weeds and plants, pruned bushes, raked leaves and mulched in the various courtyards in the complex. Cathy Weaver, the director of Marydale, said the facility has a long tradition of having volunteers come in to help with several tasks.
“This is the first time with this group, and we’re delighted to have them,” she said. “It’s even more important because we had two other volunteer groups that were going to come in and help us earlier in the year, and the weather did not cooperate. Our gardens are in need of attention.”
Each resident has a space for gardening, Weaver said. Some are not interested in gardening and have grown the spaces over with grass. Some residents like to do the work themselves, while others are not physically able to do it. The cadets were able to give many of the residents a leg up on their landscaping.
Cadet Barry Lee, a probation and parole officer supervisor, said the group was happy to start their day in Newark. The recruits, he added, are usually in Dover ready to go at 7:30 each morning, so getting right to work at Marydale was not an issue.
“Working in law enforcement, we don’t just protect and serve. We help out the community in any way. If it comes down to gardening, pruning, raking up leaves, we do it all. Service doesn’t end with protecting and serving. We try to better the community in any way possible.”
Rick Negley, an instructor at the academy, was knee-deep in leaves and brush for much of the morning. He said the leaders were not the kind to stand around and supervise.
“One of the things that we always make sure that we stand on is that we don’t tell them to do anything that we’re not going to do, and we lead by example,” he said. “The whole point of this is we’re going to show them how we expect them to handle themselves in the community, how we expect them to act with people. Hopefully, they learn, and that becomes the way they act.”
The days of service were instituted by Delaware Department of Correction secretary Monroe Hudson, Negley continued.
“He thinks it’s vital to understanding why we do the job that we do and what our purpose is as far as protecting the community and serving the community,” Negley said.
The tie between Marydale and the state law enforcement community is Dave Tiberi, a board member of Catholic Charities, of which Marydale is a part. Tiberi, a former professional boxer, also provides training at the BOTC.
The service work also helps promote a positive image of law enforcement, said Andy Krzanowski, a drill instructor.
“There is a negative light, especially in the past few years that has been put on law enforcement, and this is a way to show the community that it’s not always negative contact that law enforcement has. There is a benefit for the citizens in the community as well, and we like to come out here and help,” he said.
The first resident who had work done in front of her unit was Susie Swartout, who has been at Marydale for about eight years. Her family will be planting flowers in her garden, and for visitors to Marydale, it is one of the first they see when the drive in.
“It’s the first area people see when they come to park or just to walk around, it’s going to be really nice to see some flowers and stuff,” Swartout said. “I love to sit outside in the nice weather, or even take a walk around the development.”
Having the cadets and other groups come to Marydale is important, said Fritz Jones, executive director of Catholic Charities.
“A lot of our seniors as they come in have the skill to do their own gardening. You can see that as you walk around. But as our seniors age in place, it gets more challenging for them to do it,” Jones said.
Keeping the landscaping maintained “creates a community camaraderie,” he continued. “It makes the community look better, but most importantly is that it gives the tenants a sense of pride in where they live, which is really important.”
Weaver said Marydale is trying to attract the groups that used to help out before the coronavirus pandemic, plus add others to that list.
“Even individuals who might like to adopt a resident, maybe come out once a month and give them a hand gardening,” she said.
Anyone interested in helping out at Marydale should call (302) 368-2784.
All photos by Mike Lang.