Day after day police officers encounter daunting situations while serving our community. They tackle the roles of social workers, protectors, counselors, community organizers, mediators, and even medical-care providers. They often meet us in our worst moments, and though they don’t have to, they choose to serve our communities.
When an unfortunate situation occurs, these officers stand by our side as a protector, beacon of hope, or trusted confidant. Considering they work long hours, often in the evenings and at night, many times it is at the expense of time with family. Appreciating the men and women who work in law enforcement is essential.
Canton resident Patti Sanders recalls a recent encounter with a Canton Police Department officer. In February her car broke down off I-575 during a severe downpour. The officer stood with her in the elements while her nephew fixed her vehicle. Although he was using a flashlight to grab drivers’ attention as they drove by, Patti shares that passing cars neglected to slow down or move into another lane, even though the law states that they must. Patti remarks of the officer who helped her, “He literally risked his life for my nephew and me.”
Positive experiences like Patti’s help us appreciate the measures police officers take to ensure the community’s safety. I had a similar experience after my first car accident in July 2022. Because I was shaken up from the collision, the Canton PD officer allowed me to sit in the driver’s seat of his patrol car while we waited for an ambulance. He opened the door periodically to check how I was doing while everyone else waited outside in the pouring rain. Even when I moved into the ambulance, he asked how I was doing and inquired if I needed anything from my vehicle.
The heartwarming encounter was an experience I’ll never forget. Police officers assist us in our times of need, and they deserve thanks and appreciation. In the commotion amid the aftermath of the accident I didn’t catch the officer’s name, but if he’s reading this: Thank you.
Meet Some Local Heroes
Corporal Katrina Adams is a New York native and former New York Police Department officer who has served as an officer for the Cherokee County School District since 2014. She says the most challenging aspect of her career “is not being able to help everybody.” Corporal Adams was among the officers honored by the Cherokee County School District [CCSD] in 2019 celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the CCSD School Police Department. During the 2019 ceremony Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower said, “Our schools, students, staff, and entire community are safer because of their dedication, focus on continuous improvement, and how deeply they care for all of us.”
Officer Yvonne Letzin, a member of the Woodstock Police Department since 2013, states, “The most challenging aspect of my job is knowing that not everyone likes the police, and they immediately assume the worst because of our uniform. Knowing that the media has unfortunately influenced their minds in a negative way has inspired me to strive to change their views.” Officer Letzin says she had a negative personal experience with police while in college and decided she wanted to be the change. Her biggest goal is to bring positivity into the community and to be sure that all people are given the advantage of receiving help without any strings attached.
Woodstock Police Officer Travis King adds, “Some calls are much harder than others; the stress of these situations will bleed over into your home life, and one of the hardest things to do is keep the two separate. To be an officer requires a solid support system on both fronts. Recognizing when something is not right and not being afraid to seek help is key.” However, these challenges become incentives because of the positive interactions he has with the community. He says his biggest goal is to change the life of at least one person, because turning a terrible experience into a beacon of hope is something that will always remain with him and the victim. Even though in his career he has endured dark and negative events, he still believes the good outweighs the bad.
Officer JoAn Willingham, who joined the Woodstock Police Department in 2019, says she was inspired to become a police officer after having experienced “the good, the bad, and the ugly side of law enforcement as a young child, as a sister, as a young adult, as a mother, and as a bystander.” She continues, “Every single one of those encounters forged a strong passion in me to be a part of the change that I want to see in my community.”
To thank the people who put their lives on the line to save ours, the nonprofit Friends of Holly Springs Police Foundation assists the Holly Springs Police Department in a multitude of ways to make the community a better place to live, work, and play. Through partnerships with community businesses and individuals, the foundation improves the services and performance of the Holly Springs Police Department, helps improve the quality of life for officers and citizens, and promotes the spirit of harmony and teamwork between the department and the community it serves. Foundation President Lori Flink explains that the affiliation sponsors several programs through donations from citizens. Their community events include Coffee with a Cop, Citizens Police Academy, Flags for Heroes, Shop with a Hero, Stuff a Truck, and Officer Family Days.
The foundation also purchases equipment for the Holly Springs Police Department, including bicycle patrol equipment, shields and helmets, items for mobile command trucks, and—in partnership with Cherokee Triad SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together)—the first thermal drone in Cherokee County. The foundation also contributes to college tuition costs for officers seeking to further their education.
The organization’s largest fundraiser is Flags for Heroes, which is completely funded by the community. Holly Springs Police Foundation partners annually with Boy Scout Troop 8880 of Canton to display flags in several Holly Springs neighborhoods. To take part, citizens pay forty dollars for flag placement in their yards six times during the year: Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, September 11, Veterans Day, and Presidents’ Day. One hundred percent of the proceeds support the foundation’s community programs.
Foundation Vice President Steve Yap says, “The Flags for Heroes program allows me to show my support for our local first responders. I get a feeling of unity when I drive into my development and see the flags posted at the entrance and in front of the homes.”
Shop with a Hero and Stuff a Truck are annual holiday events during which the organization partners with Impact Ministries, local schools, and retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot of Holly Springs to supply Christmas gifts, food boxes, and other necessities to families in need. Members of the Holly Springs Police Department, Cherokee County Fire and EMS, CCSD School Police Department, Cherokee County Search & Rescue, and Cherokee County E-911 shop with children whose families need a lift during the holiday season. They also collect toys, clothing, diapers, and toiletries to be distributed in the community where needs have been identified.
The Holly Springs Police Department is especially grateful for the foundation’s work toward providing drones for its Drone Program, according to Chief Tommy Keheley. The department plans to add more drones to the fleet and have certified officer pilots assigned to each shift. Lieutenant Sam Rentz, a thirty-eight-year veteran in law enforcement, leads the program. He shares that the goal of the drone program is to keep the community safe by locating fleeing suspects, missing persons, and more. The drone program been used in Holly Springs, of course, and its pilots have also assisted in Woodstock, Roswell, Ball Ground, and Pickens County. Since its launch in 2020 the department has had more than fifty requests for assistance, with requests increasing each year.
“Holly Springs was ranked the number-one safest city in Georgia for 2023 by Safewise. This could not have been possible without the dedication and actions taken by our officers,” says Chief Keheley.
Lori shares, “Our group is entirely made up of volunteers who work hard on all our initiatives. We are always looking for volunteers and members to join us in making a difference in our community.” What better way to thank our local heroes for their dedication to protecting and serving Cherokee County?
Our local police officers and first responders work tirelessly to ensure the safety and security of Cherokee County’s residents. These local heroes answer the call for help when we are in need. What can we do when an officer is in need? We can look to the community and to organizations such as the Woodstock Public Safety Foundation.
Officer Travis King of the Woodstock Police Department always wanted to be a police officer, which he says is “a calling, not a job.” Following in his footsteps is his six-year-old son, Ezra, who was sworn in as a junior officer in September.
Ezra is not only a junior officer, but also a warrior. First diagnosed with a brain tumor at just eighteen months of age, Ezra has spent countless hours in waiting rooms and hospitals while bravely battling cancer through doctor’s visits, tests, surgeries, MRIs, and chemotherapy.
Throughout this battle, the community has rallied around the King family and supported Team Ezra. Woodstock Public Safety Foundation President Shane Bonebrake, also director of Cherokee County E911 Services, shares, “I was hired at the Woodstock Police Department the same day Travis was. I remember the day Ezzie was born. It was like we all had a new baby. When he was diagnosed with the brain tumor, it punched us all in the gut and heart.”
A car show and an annual charity golf tournament organized by the Woodstock Public Safety Foundation were among the fundraisers that benefitted the Kings. These two events alone raised more than $20,000 to aid the family with medical and travel expenses.
Shane continues, “It takes an army to battle cancer, and the foundation is one of the battle partners to help Ezra beat cancer. ‘Thank you’ just isn’t enough to say to all the donors who have given countless hours and funds to help in this battle. I love this little guy like he’s my own and will continue to help in whatever way I can.”
Find out how you too can help in Ezra’s battle by following the Facebook page Team Ezra for heartfelt updates from the King family as Ezra continues to combat cancer.
Plus, click here to donate to Team Ezra, care of the Woodstock Public Safety Foundation. 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the King family.
National Night Out
On the first Tuesday in August each year, communities across the country celebrate National Night Out, an outreach initiative designed to enhance the relationship between neighbors, first responders, and law enforcement while promoting a true sense of community. This year, August 1 marks the 40th Annual National Night Out:
Coffee with a Cop events bring police officers and community members together over coffee to discuss issues and learn more about each other.
For a chance to meet our local police officers and show your appreciation, visit these upcoming Coffee with a Cop events throughout Cherokee County:
Thursday, July 13 | 9:00-10:30 a.m.
Woodstock Police Department
Black Rifle Coffee Company
10971 Highway 92, Woodstock
Thursday, July 13 | 9:00-11:00 a.m.
Holly Springs Police Department
3448 Holly Springs Parkway, Canton
Tuesday, July 18 | 9:00-10:00 a.m.
Canton Police Department
Premier Martial Arts
1455 Riverstone Parkway, Suite 120, Canton
Wednesday, August 2 | 10:00 a.m.
Ball Ground Police Department
Barrel House Coffee Co.
275 Gilmer Ferry Road, Suite 5, Ball Ground
Wednesday, August 9 | 9:00-10:30 a.m.
Woodstock Police Department
9728 Highway 92, Woodstock
Thursday, September 14 | 9:00-10:30 a.m.
Woodstock Police Department
Circle of Friends Coffee Shop
1 Innovation Way, Woodstock
You May Also Like…
Emma Tyler is a Cherokee High School graduate and two-time Governor’s Honors Program nominee for literature. She is an incoming freshman at Georgia College & State University where she plans to study journalism.