Fullerton, La Habra police departments show their love during citywide service day

By Lou Ponsi

Fullerton police officers and explorers deployed to a hillside at the Fullerton Sports Complex on Saturday.

Another group of FPD officers and cadets converged on the Juanita Cook Trail.

Donning work gloves and armed with rakes, hoes and shovels, about 50 members of the FPD joined dozens of volunteers from other community groups in clearing away dried-up leaves and twigs, planting fresh foliage and spreading wood chips.

The annual Love Fullerton citywide service day was in full swing.

FPD Explorer Tyler Shepperd helped plant foliage along a hillside at the Fullerton Sports Complex on Saturday as part of the Love Fullerton citywide service day. Photo by Lou Ponsi Behind the Badge OC

Whether beautifying a park, painting a house, feeding the homeless or visiting with a homebound senior, thousands of volunteers from all facets of the community spent the day doing selfless service.

“It gives us a chance to be part of something bigger than just the police department,” FPD Sgt. Jon Radus said. “We like to think we do community service on a daily basis, but this is an opportunity to do a different kind of community service. It’s not every day you see police officers with rakes andshovels, digging holes and planting trees. We just want to make an impact in our community beyond traditional policing. .”

A few miles north in La Habra, La Habra PD detectives Noah Daniels and Mucio Sanchez, and LHPD cadets Rudy Medina and Kyle Ferris, spent several hours performing much- needed landscaping in front of a home where an overgrown tree had engulfed the front yard and pressed against the house.

About 30 LHPD employees, from the chief on down, were among hundreds from the community volunteering for the Love La Habra city service day, Daniels said.

Fullerton PD explorers, cadets and officers volunteered to landscape a hillside at the Fullerton Sports Complex as part of the Love Fullerton service day. Photo by Lou Ponsi Behind the Badge OC

They painted houses, planted trees, cleared away brush and built fences.

“The stereotype is that we go out there and arrest bad guys but it goes much farther than that,” Daniels said. “Our job is to take care of our communities, and this is a big part of it. It’s a basic function. It’s what the police are about.”

LHPD spruced up homes throughout the city, particularly in neighborhoods where gangs had become a problem.

“We’re taking it back,” Daniels said. “They don’t get to be here. The idea is that we beautify one house, and it spreads.”

FPD Explorers Elizabeth Villalobos, left, and Nicole Aguado take a needed water break. Photo by Lou Ponsi Behind the Badge OC

At La Habra’s Washington Middle School, 11-year-old Mackenzie Elmore taught LHPD Cpt. Dean Capelletti and Sgt. Brian Miller to craft homemade holiday cards that will be sent to veterans who don’t have families.

“It makes me feel good inside,” Mackenzie said of the project. “On Christmas, when I get to hang out with my family, some people don’t have that, so that is why I thought of this.”

OCUnited, a collection of community groups, nonprofits and churches that collaborate on volunteer projects, coordinated the Love events.

Organized in 2014 by former FPD Chief Dan Hughes and Jay Williams, a pastor at Fullerton’s First Evangelical Free Church, the first Love Fullerton event drew thousands of volunteers who participated in a variety of projects.

From left, La Habra PD Det. Noah Daniels, Det. Mucio Sanchez and cadets Rudy Medina and Kyle Ferris clear away a pile of branches in front a house where they had just trimmed an overgrown tree. LHPD had about 30 volunteers participate in the Love La Habra service day April 29. Photo by Lou Ponsi, Behind the Badge OC

Fullerton’s event was inspired by Love Modesto, which started in 2009.

Over the past two years, the Love movement has expanded throughout north Orange County.

Along with Fullerton and La Habra, cities hosting service days on April 29 included Brea, Buena Park and Anaheim.

For more information, go to lovefullerton.org and lovelahabra.com

FPD explorers pose for a photo after participating in the Love Fullerton volunteer project on a hillside at the Fullerton Sports Complex on April 29. Photo by Lou Ponsi, Behind the Badge OC

LHPD cadet Rudy Medina helps clear away branches that were cut from an overgrown tree. Photo by Lou Ponsi, Behind the Badge OC

LHPD Det. Mucio Sanchez fills a Dumpster with branches that were cut from an overgrown tree. Photo by Lou Ponsi, Behind the Badge OC

Mackenzie Elmore, 11, of La Habra, displays some of the veterans’ Christmas cards she helped craft during the Love La Habra service day. Photo by Lou Ponsi, Behind the Badge OC

Fullerton PD photo

Fullerton PD photo

Fullerton PD photo

Fullerton PD photo