Johnston Police Chief Joseph P. Razza was standing in a shaded area of sun-drenched War Memorial Park wearing a wide smile on his face.
That’s because the veteran law enforcement veteran was thrilled with what was about to transpire inside of two hours last Thursday morning.
“It is truly a delight to get back out here and start re-engaging with our valued seniors through this program,” Razza exclaimed. “It is also refreshing to interact with the public as they enjoyed being outside and recreating in the park.”
Razza was speaking about the unique and unmatched Walk with Cops program, initiated a quarter century or so ago when former Chief Richard S. Tamburini took over as the leader of the Johnston Police Department.
The program features senior residence officials busing their residents to Johnston War Memorial Park for breakfast in the open air and some exercise, namely, taking a stroll around the track with members of the JPD.
“We encourage everyone, young and old, to come out on Thursday morning at 9:30 and join us as we engage in conversation and stroll around our town’s beautiful park,” Razza explained. “The Walk with Cops program is special to each and every member of the JPD. This weekly program that Chief Tamburini founded is a tried-and-true way for us to get to know and meet the individuals who reside in assisted living communities throughout Johnston.”
It’s also highly popular with staff members of award-winning senior retirement and assisted living facilities such as The Bridge at Cherry Hill, which was well represented on opening day by Executive Director Maryann Grace and Dining Room Supervisor Ann Marie Cardilli, who pushed resident Yolande Ouellet around the park during last Thursday’s first seasonal walk.
Likewise, two retired sisters and a friend from Anchor Bay at Pocasset in Johnston were the newcomers to Walk with Cops. The program was sadly cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Nuns Sisters Bea Rogers and Connie Gagnon, as well as their fellow resident friend Gloria Riley, came from the independent living center on Old Pocasset Road and enjoyed the day’s camaraderie and caloric creations that included everything from donuts and coffee and McDonald’s famed Egg McMuffins.
Although the JPD command, headed by Razza and Deputy Chief Mark Vieira, was on-hand and helped serve the breakfast and coffee, District I Councilwomen Linda Folcarelli led the long list of volunteers during what the Chief called “a very successful and satisfying opening day for everyone that joined us today.”
Likewise, Corrine Felix – who recently retired as Activity Director at The Bridge – was on hand and helping make sure every attendee had enough to eat and tended to those second and third refills of coffee before joining the traditional walk around the park.
“I absolutely love doing this,” Linda Folcarelli said while arranging special and donated prizes for the season-opening raffle. “This is my third year and the Walk with Cops never ever gets old.”
Folcarelli, a one-time civilian staffer at the police department, helps coordinate Walk with Cops, as part of the Department’s Community Policing Division now headed by Capt. Joe Salvadore.
Walks with Cops is a free program for seniors and is held every Thursday, beginning at 9:30 a.m., weather permitting, in Johnston War Memorial Park, located off Route 6, Hartford Avenue.