BY: Mo Juenger, World News Editor
The Xavier University Police Department (XUPD) has continued to volunteer with the Evanston Food Bank during the pandemic, and a new grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may give XUPD an opportunity to advance their initiatives in the surrounding community.
According to Warfell, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March economically rocked Evanston and Norwood. Financial instability sent shockwaves through the community, leading to disruptions in the Evanston Community Council schedule, as well as regular community programming.
XUPD programs like Coffee with a Cop — designed to connect officers to the community they serve and build trust in the police department — suffered without in-person meetings. Warfel also noted a marked increase in attendance at the Evanston Food Pantry during the pandemic.
“We’ve been volunteering there for a year and a half… (We saw) the uptick locally as well as nationally,” Warfel said.
Throughout the pandemic, XUPD worked with Freestore Foodbank and the Ohio National Guard to improve food distribution services in the area surrounding Xavier. The department also coordinated with the United States Department of Agriculture program Farm to Families to distribute fresh produce to families throughout quarantine.
“It’s the university mission. Our motto is to protect, serve and educate, and I don’t know how much more directly you can serve than getting to meet those basic needs,” Warfel said.
According to Warfel, XUPD assisted in these food support programs in ways that were largely logistical: steering traffic, collecting food and other items, donating and sorting items.
These programs help, but Warfel sees a need in Evanston beyond what pantries and emergency programs can provide.
“Do we see a need in other areas? Absolutely… Expectations of activities and events, all of those have been curtailed or impacted by COVID, lack of funding and the difficulty to adapt,” Warfel said.
Now, though, XUPD has an opportunity to re-enter local communities in-person. The department has earned a grant, awarded by the DHS, for $124,000. XUPD hopes to use this grant to conduct in-person anti-violence programming at local middle schools.
“(The program is) geared more towards… enhancing communication, establishing a rapport with the law enforcement community so that there’s a comfort level instead of fear,” Warfel explained.
Programs like this are why many officers join the police force in the first place, according to the chief.
“All of us get into this particular profession somewhat idealistically, to protect and serve, and this is a really tangible way to do that,” he noted.
The program currently has funding for the next two years, but it could be renewed by the DHS or ingratiated into local school curriculums if successful.
“Work like this is a part of the Xavier spirit”, Warfel concluded. “Not only is it a good thing to do for the community — it’s what we’re expected to do as Musketeers.”