MANSFIELD – Community members, elected officials, police officers and firefighters showed up at Graham Automall Friday night to show their appreciation for the hard work and sacrifice our local first responder’s exhibit on a daily basis.

“I respect and admire you all so much,” said Richland County Prosecutor Gary Bishop. “The theme seems to be that we appreciate you and that we respect you and we support you.”

Community organization We ACT, Mansfield City At-large Councilman Don Bryant, Richland Outreach Center and Richland Stands United hosted the kickoff of Richland County “Spread the Light” 2017, a localized approach to blue light week, in support of local law enforcement and safety forces. Residents are asked to shine a blue light at their residence this week to show support.

Richland County Commissioner Marilyn John reflected on the fact that she and the other commissioners rely on safety forces in their day-to-day lives.

“It was just this past week that Commissioner Banks received a call that there was a fire at a loved one’s home and the first responders were there to care for them,” she said. “And it was just a year and a half ago that there was an incident at the courthouse and it was very scary. We had law enforcement, the police department and the sheriff’s department there immediately offering their protection. It was time to go home and I was very scared to walk to my car. Officer Zehner offered came up and said, ‘I will walk you to your car’ and he put himself between me and danger because that’s what you all do.”

Community champion Doc Stumbo and Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker stressed that even though the community is asked to show support for this week, it should be an everyday thing to support our local safety forces.

“This is not a seven day celebration or thank you, this is a 24 hour, seven day a week, 365 days a year celebration in honor of what you are willing to do for us,” said John.

Raising awareness and support for all that our local law enforcement, firefighters and first responders do is important, said Ohio House Representative Mark Romanchuk.

“Upholding our faith and trust in our first responders is critical to creating and maintaining a safe society for everyone,” he said. “What is so important about the Spread the Light mission is that it promotes solidarity throughout the community by standing together with friends and neighbors, we can show first responders that they have the strong, unified backing of the community they are cast with protecting.”

No one can dispute the bravery of our law enforcement and first responders, said Romanchuk.

“In addition to facing dangers in our own community, international terrorism has come to our shores,” he said. “We are comforted to know our first responders will be there in the event we are ever attacked here in Richland County. Our first responders are willing and able to take on this challenge and we are grateful.”

Richland County Sheriff Steve Sheldon and Mansfield Law Director John Spon both said they appreciate the local men and women who serve our area.

“I’ve seen up front the professionalism of our local law enforcement,” Spon said. “I’ve also seen the factual scenarios of the danger. I can absolutely assure everyone here there is no more dangerous job anywhere then being a police officer.”

Community member Trina Floyd of Richland Stands United said she thinks it’s important the community join with law enforcement help police our city and have better communication between the two.

“We want to keep the communication going,” she said. “The biggest step to thwarting a lot of the problems we have in our community is through continued communication. We have to continue to talk to each other.”

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