GREEN: The men and women in blue rolled out the red carpet Wednesday to spread some Christmas cheer for a number of senior citizens in southern Summit County.
Summit County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Ahwajee stood near the door to Lakeview Christian Church in Green waiting as drivers pulled up under the church canopy and handed him their car keys.
“I’m valet parking for the day,” said Ahwajee, who once worked as a valet in college. “It didn’t dawn on me until I got into the first car today. I’ve come full circle.”
As it has for the past 16 years, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office once again hosted a party for the senior citizens enrolled in its welfare check program in Green and Coventry Township. Sgt. Michael Walsh said he believes Summit County is the only sheriff’s office in Ohio that offers the service where deputies regularly visit elderly residents.
He cited the case of a woman in northern Summit County who gave her credit-card information to a caller in a telephone scam last fall who offered her an overseas trip at a discounted rate. The woman bought into the scam because her children were traveling abroad and she wanted to go, too.
Walsh said the woman “told Deputy Bob Schneckenburger what a bargain she got” during a welfare check.
“He looked into it, went after the company and got her money back,” he said.
Each deputy provides welfare checks on as many as three seniors at least twice a month.
“Most of our seniors don’t have family close by. We check on them to make sure they aren’t victims of fraud, make sure they have food in the house and that they are generally all right,” he said.
The deputies also make sure their seniors feel safe in their homes and aren’t victims of domestic violence. The sheriff’s office works in tandem with the county’s Adult Protective Services.
An estimated 130 seniors attended the outing. Some of those who were unable to drive themselves were offered rides.
The luncheon is one of the highlights of the year for many of their seniors, said Walsh.
“If I don’t get the invitations out, they are calling me and asking where they are,” he said.
As many as 30 deputies helped deliver door prizes, pass out roses to the ladies and escort them through a buffet line of pasta, chicken, side salads, vegetables and dessert. Food is provided through donations from 30 to 40 local businesses and restaurants.
“Even when times are hard like it has been with the economy, they open their doors and say, ‘What do you need?’ ” Walsh said.
Green High School Choir provided entertainment.
The annual party, originally part of the Community Policing Program, continued after funds dried up and the program was dropped, mostly due to the efforts of Deputy Mark Carroll who is “the heartbeat of this program,” said Walsh.
“He cared about them and made sure we don’t forget about our seniors,” he said.
Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander, who attended the party, told guests that his deputies provide the party each year, ‘‘because they enjoy your company so much.”
Alexander, who is stepping down after 12 years in office, told the crowd he would see them again next year.
“I am going to miss you, but I think I qualify now as a senior,” he said with a laugh.
The party moves north today as sheriff’s deputies treat seniors enrolled in the program in Northfield Center and Twinsburg.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.