What started nineteen years ago – the Annual Police Valentine Tribute – as a way for church members to show some love to its Hill public servants during the worst of winter, has blossomed into something quite special for both Capitol Hill United Methodist (CHUMC) on Seward Square SE, and the cops they chose to honor back then – and every year since – at the First District sub-station two blocks down 5th Street.
The yearly tribute has grown in people and popularity over the years, especially as CHUMC’s burgeoning crop of young families and kids has grown. And the once puzzled officers now relish the event, knowing it brings only support and celebration. Organized by CHUMC and attended by Ebenezer UMC and other community leaders, the citizens delight officers with food, gag gifts and songs mentioning officers by name.
“This Valentine event,” said 1D1’s Captain Knutsen, “was the 19th annual celebration where the Officers and Supervisors of the First District Sub-station were honored by members of Capitol Hill United Methodist Church. While it was only my second year participating, it was the best yet! It is a remarkable and special honor for myself and my team to be the recipients of such love and support.” Knutsen added that in this day and age, events such as these are a crucial source of positive interaction with the community, letting the sub-station team see how much citizen support they truly have.
But this year had a twist. First District Commander Morgan Kane and Capt. Knutsen surprised church members with a certificate of appreciation for their 19 years of honoring the officers. Accepting the certificate was Carol Anderson, the event’s founding organizer from CHUMC. “This is a huge surprise and thrill. On behalf of all the church and community leaders who’ve come through your doors bearing gifts and songs of praise these past 19 years, I accept this beautiful gesture in their name,” said Anderson. Not finished, Cmdr. Kane also had Valentine chocolates for CHUMC’s Anderson and Ebenezer UMC’s Lorna Morgan.
Troy Sims, CHUMC’s Deacon of Discipleship Ministries, presented the Sunday School kids’ “Boat of Faith” to the officers and likened it to the task the officers have of stepping out in faith when fulfilling their duty to defend public safety.
Before performing the music, the group joked, “For your sins … we’re going to sing to you.” With Deacon Sims playing guitar, the group’s first song was “We Just Came to Say We Thank You,” to the tune of Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Came to Say I Love You.”
“This year’s tribute was an amazing display of our partnership and the importance of it,” said Cmdr. Kane. “Taking time for dialogue and allowing the officers to share bits of information about themselves in such a relaxed atmosphere does wonders for our spirits. We look forward to this yearly event,” she said.
Councilmember Charles Allen’s senior counsel, Nichole Opkins, said, “Our officers strive to be a model of successful and meaningful community policing, and we are grateful for their service and commitment to DC residents. So I’m honored to join Capitol Hill United Methodist Church for my fourth year of celebrating the hardworking men and women of 1D1 and the entire Metropolitan Police Department.”
Nature’s own de-stressers, laughing kids, conducted their usual diplomacy of adorning officers with heart-shaped sunglasses, tinsel leis, toys and more. Joanne Buford’s famous homemade soup – a staple the officers now consider mandatory – joined meatballs, fried chicken, chocolate cake and other goodies that made only brief contact with plates.
For a little while, everyone was kicking back, having fun like the kids. Said a beaming Capt. Knutsen, “I cannot thank CHUMC enough. I hope this event will continue for years to come.”