Foster parents honored at dinner
“Your child is my child.” That's the message Greenville High School Resource Officer Malcomb Owens shared with the guests at Thursday night's 16th Annual John D. Murphy Memorial Foster Parent Dinner.
Susan Murphy organized the evening's festivities, held at the Walnut Street Church of Christ in Greenville and catered by Nanny's Fine Dining. Wal-Mart volunteers were on hand to assist in serving and clean up.
Many local officials and sponsors for the event attended, including Mayor Pro-Tem Jeddo Bell, Police Chief Lonzo Ingram, DHR Director Frieda Stevens and her staff, to join area foster parents in a celebration of their giving spirit.
Owens, the keynote speaker, saw some familiar faces at the dinner.
“I see several of ‘my' kids here tonight,” the resource officer said as he looked around the room.
The 21-year law enforcement veteran demonstrated he practiced what he preached after apologizing for his late arrival.
“We had a kid who got on the wrong bus and the parents were getting worried…the driver was out in the county out of cell phone range,” Owens said.
“My gas light came on…I wasn't sure if should worry more about running out of gas or upsetting Mrs. Murphy,” he added to the chuckles of his audience.
The officer shared an enlightening and entertaining message about the role of resource officers in the schools.
Owens stressed they were not in place to be “disciplinarians trying to police the kids.”
“We are not here because the school is a bad place…I come from Birmingham and believe me, we have nothing like the problems they have up there.”
Owens said the officers do work on establishing a rapport with the GHS students and helping to nip behavior problems in the bud whenever possible.
Resource officers also serve as members of the school's guidance team and the school-to-work plan.
“We make calls to check and make sure these kids are going to their jobs, doing what they need to be doing and establishing a good rapport at work,” Owens said.
Resource officers attend specific extra-curricular events, including parades, and travel with athletic teams to out-of-town games.
“Our goal is to get back in one piece and bring everyone home safe and sound.”
Owens said the officers also work with officials about ways to make school facilities a safe place.
“Did you know five of our seven schools are near train tracks? And Greenville High is on the Interstate. There's the risk of chemical spills. We have to be able to protect our kids from possible risks.”
Resource officers also make presentations to students, parents and educators on aspects of law enforcement, Owens said.
“The key really is getting the parents involved in the process of their kids' education, working with teachers and counselors – that gets the ball rolling.”
Owens said resource officers represent schools and principals in court cases, speaking on their behalf to allow the educators to stay on campus where they are needed.
“Basically, we have one foot in the police department, one foot in the school. It's a busy job and it takes a lot of patience and prayer…please continue to give me the help you have given me,” Owens told the parents present.
“It's a stressful job, but I like what I do. You have to have the good Lord in your life to do this.”
Owens said he personally commended each of the foster parents for their efforts to help kids in need.
Following Owens' talk, it was time to really put the spotlight on the honorees. Foster parents' names were drawn, with each receiving a gift certificate in appreciation “of all that you do,” Murphy said.
One lucky foster parent, Annie Jewel Tyson, also took home the door prize, a potted fern.
“There are so many who give tangibly to this program. All our sponsors tonight – and the list is longer than last year – the Jaycees and their Christmas party for the children, the Butler County Commission, the City of Greenville, and many other entities. There are so many, and we couldn't do it without their support,” Murphy said.
Murphy got some special recognition, too, when she was presented with a sculpture of two children for her garden courtesy of the DHR, who called Murphy “a great philanthropist with a truly compassionate heart.”
The evening closed with DHR staffers passing out colorful book bags filled with school supplies to the county's foster children.