“Not doing too bad,” said Lieutenant Tom Madera of the Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) Police Department. “Took me a couple of chances on the beer. I won’t be quitting my job anytime soon to start this, that’s for sure.”
Standing behind the bar at Amici Italian Grill on Main Street, Madera served drinks cautiously. Like many other policemen at Amici on Thursday, March 21, he had never worked in the restaurant business before, but he handled his new job duties with aplomb.
Madera was one of many police officers from ECSU and Middletown who participated in Special Olympics Connecticut’s annual local Tip-A-Cop event, set for the first time at Amici. Through lunch and dinner, officers helped the regular waiting staff take orders, serve food, and bartend while collecting tips that would be donated entirely to the Special Olympics. After taking care of the service end, the officers approached the customers to talk with them about the Special Olympics and solicit donations.
Officer Joshua Ward of the Middletown Police Department explained the fundraising process.
“100 percent of the [tips] go to the Special Olympics, and it pays for everything that the athletes need, whether it’s housing, equipment, everything they do,” Ward said. “It’s total nonprofit for us.”
Madera expressed satisfaction with his customers’ response to the charity.
“They’ve been very receptive, they’ve been asking a lot of questions, [and] they’ve been very generous with their donations, so it’s going very well,” he said.
While the cops bustled around the floor, Special Olympics Connecticut Eastern Region Director of Development Jackie Turro stood by Amici’s entrance providing information on Special Olympics Connecticut and the Tip-A-Cop event. Turro has been running Middletown’s Tip-A-Cop events for five years; over this time period, she has found that the customers’ reception to the grey-shirted heroes bringing them their food has been generally positive. The same held true this year.
“Earlier in the day, we had a lot of people who knew exactly what was going on, who came here for the event,” Turro said. “Then there’s the regulars that came in that were a little thrown off, but they seemed pretty receptive to it.”
These fundraising events are usually very successful, and Turro was hopeful that this year’s Tip-A-Cop event would prove equally so.
“Hopefully we raise around 1000 dollars today,” she said. “We raise over half a million dollars every year doing events like this in towns across the state with police departments, Department of Corrections, and state police. The Tip-A-Cop is one of our most basic ones.”
The fundraiser was more successful than Turro had dared hope: by the end of the day, over $2000 had been raised.
Amici, in turn, donated 10 percent of its sales from March 21 to the cause.
Ward has worked the Tip-A-Cop beat in years past when it was set at the Tuscany Grill, but this is the first time he has organized and facilitated the event. According to Ward, many other local restaurants have expressed interest in hosting Tip-A-Cop in the future, and there is a possibility that the event’s popularity might lead to an increase in annual installments. Like Madera, however, Ward agrees that a full-time shift to restaurant work isn’t in the cards for him.
“It’s tough,” Ward said. “I wouldn’t want their job. They have a very interesting job, [but] I wouldn’t wanna do it. I think it sheds new light on what they do. I’ll stick to police work any day, though.”