MANSFIELD, Ohio — Blue light beamed from Graham Automall Saturday evening during the Richland County Spread the Light kickoff.
Created by local activist group We ACT, Spread the Light is meant to promote pride in local law enforcement, firefighters and first responders, partnership across all communities and peace in local neighborhoods. The color blue symbolizes the color of peace.
“Richland County Spread the Light is a morale boost for our local police department with all of the negativity that’s going on across the United States against police,” said Angel Ross-Taylor with We ACT. “We can’t change what’s going on in the U.S., but we can change the climate of our community and our police department.
“It’s called being proactive and building a relationship with our police department and our community.”
Several dignitaries, including Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker, Bellville Mayor Darrell Banks, Richland County Commissioner Gary Utt, Richland County Common Pleas Judge Brent Robinson, Richland County Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page, Mansfield Councilman At-Large Don Bryant, State Rep. Mark Romanchuk and State Sen. Larry Obhof, attended the kickoff.
Everyone in attendance received a free blue light bulb to shine this week in support of the local safety forces.
From Jan. 10 through Jan. 16, the county will observe “Spread the Light” week. All Richland County residents, municipalities, businesses, churches, schools and organizations are asked to come together by putting a blue light bulb on their porch or business.
“The blue light not only represents community support for law enforcement–which we are eternally grateful for — but we should also never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their communities,” Mansfield Assistant Police Chief Keith Porch said.
After taking a moment of silence to recognize those who have died in the line of duty, Porch thanked the community for its support.
“We will always hold in the highest regard and give the utmost respect for the community’s support and never forget who we serve,” Porch said.
Romanchuk discussed the significance of Spread the Light’s mission.
“What is so important about Spread the Light’s mission is that it promotes solidarity throughout the community,” he said. “By standing together with our friends and neighbors, we can show first responders that they have the strong, united backing of the community they are tasked with protecting.”
Veronica Groff, CEO of Catalyst Life Services, said Catalyst serves people who have mental health issues and drug and alcohol issues who are often in severe emotional distress.
“And because of that, we need the back-up of our safety forces.”
She said that Catalyst frequently works with local law enforcement officers.
“We find them to be very compassionate when they interact with us.”
Obhof said Spread the Light “speaks pretty well” of the local community.
“We see tensions throughout other places in the country, we see problems brewing at one time or another between first responders and the community and here in Mansfield, Ohio, everybody recognizes the importance of unity, the value that first responders, whether it’s law enforcement or the fire department or EMS or anybody else in these fields, the value that they have.”
Couch Page shared similar thoughts.
“I think that Richland County is a unique sort of community in that we have not had the turmoil or distrust of our officers based upon a great response from our community, and we genuinely appreciate that.”
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