Police, diner serve up $3K for charity

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BENNINGTON — Members of the Bennington Police Association patrolled the Sunny Side Diner on Saturday, along with officers and staff of the Bennington Police Department, where they walked table-to-table carrying either a guest book in hand or platters of food.

The group took the "to protect and serve" motto to a whole new level, by serving food to tables throughout the day for charity. Their goal was to raise funds to help purchase over 300 bicycle helmets for their upcoming bicycle rodeo event that will be held this spring that will help children learn about bike safety.

About $3,000 was raised in total, part from tips, and part from the donation of half the day's proceeds by the diner's owner, Susan Cerretta. More than 200 meals were served throughout the day, Police Chief Paul Doucette said; one of the largest tips of the day was $250. That's enough to buy more than 20 helmets, he said.

"I think it went phenomenally well," Doucette said. "I learned that being a waiter can be a bit harder than being a cop."

The idea for the fundraiser was formed when, over lunch with the chief, Cerretta suggested that the group hold a fundraiser at the restaurant.

The diner saw a steady stream of customers throughout the day, some of whom visited the diner specifically for the event, while others were diners who regularly visited the restaurant and were surprised to see officers serving meals.

Sara Andrew and Todd Becker, both of Bennington, were served their meals by Sleasman. The two stopped into the diner before going out to take a bike ride. Saturday was a bright and sunny day, that showcased unseasonably warm weather.

"I saw the event advertised online," Andrew said. "I think it's a great way to give back to the community and to teach kids about bikes and bike safety."

Cerretta said that customers had "no complaints" throughout the day and all of the orders had come out right. The officers did everything on Saturday, all the way down to wrapping up silverware.

Parents approached the officers and asked them for pictures with their children, which the officers were happy to do. The event helped bring the police department the community closer together, and some people used the event as a way to speak up about their concerns.

Sleasman said that this event helped shine a different light on the department. He said it also helped show people that, "we're human beings too."

"It's been pretty smooth," Sleasman said. "I was a bit nervous at first, as I've never done this before. The most challenging part was just remembering what people were trying to say and to write it down, but it's been manageable. I give [kudos] to people in the food industry."

Doucette said that his officers had come up to him throughout the day and asked him if they could do this event again. Both Doucette and Ceretta said that they were interested in doing the event again as well.

"I thought it was fun and awesome," Shannon Smith, a regular waitress at the diner, said. "They worked hard."


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