By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
It all began when Tucumcari Police Sgt. Bryan Holmes and Officer Kenny Hernandez, on patrol at Tucumcari Elementary School, saw children shivering in the morning cold as they walked to school about two weeks before Christmas.
But the real payoff was last week. Temperatures plummeted to single digits. Police officers knew 65 of those kids could now stay warm on their way to school.
Hernandez and Holmes started is Cops and Coats.
They spoke with Tucumcari Elementary Principal Tonya Hodges and set up a system — children in need could sign up to receive warm coats they may have been lacking. Coats and Cops was underway.
The officers drafted a letter and a form to be sent home with students. If parents wanted their children to receive a coat, they would return the form.
Instead of forms, however, some of the children came to school with new coats for kids in need, Holmes said.
Hernandez and Holmes also purchased quite a few coats with their own cash.
Hernandez alone bought 20.
I had to put in a lot of overtime,” Holmes said, to buy those coats and make a holiday for his own three children.
They also persuaded fellow officers to buy coats and jackets. Then, they got community donors involved. ALCO chipped in by giving a 20-percent discount to anyone who bought a coat or jacket for Cops and Coats, Hernandez said.
Contributions from Tucumcari’s Assembly of God Church and Living Well, a Healing Ministry, where his father Ken Hernandez is pastor, were particularly generous, he said.
On Jan. 30, Holmes, Hernandez and other officers, including Chief Jason Braziel and Assistant Chief Pete Rivera dropped in at the school carrying 73 coats contributed by officers, churches and community members. Working from a list that school officials drew up, the officers guided the children to coats they liked and in their sizes. They returned the following week with jackets for a few who could not be matched with sizes on the first day.
When he went to Kmart to fill that final order, Holmes said, “it was 70 degrees, but I saw kids wearing the coats we gave them. They were so excited to get them.”
In all, Holmes said, the kids came away with 65 new coats.
Hernandez and Holmes said they hope Cops and Coats will become an annual event.
“We’d like to get it started as early as September,” Holmes said, “and make it major effort next year.