MANSFIELD -- Sometimes a simple act of kindness can make a big difference. For the officers at the Richland County Jail, that kindness came in the form of gooey cheese and sizzling pepperoni.
Sgt. Chris Plantz, Sgt. Kristin Gillis and Lt. Katina Douglas grinned underneath their masks late Thursday morning, as they waited outside the visitors' entrance for a special delivery from Gionino's Pizzeria.
Roger Nelson, who owns four Gionino's franchises in Richland County and one in Bucyrus, donated a total of 25 pizzas to the corrections staff Thursday, covering meals for all three shifts of officers.
"It's very nice and kind. People don't have to be kind these days, we really appreciate it," Douglas said.
Captain Chris Blunk, the jail administrator, said the donation meant a lot to he and his staff.
“A lot of the time, the jail and the jail officers and staff go unnoticed," Blunk said. “It’s good to see people in the community like Roger and Gionino’s offer their support and their gratitude to what we do here.”
Seeing COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons across the country makes it a scary time to work in corrections. Blunk said his staff has risen to the challenge and maintained positive attitudes.
“We have a very difficult task that we do, as well as many others, to follow all the guidelines and procedures that have been put forth," he said. "Our staff has come in diligently and worked hard and done the things we need to do to keep everybody who enters this facility safe and well.”
Nelson was happy for the opportunity to give back.
“When it’s time for me to try to help out other people, I try to do the best I can," Nelson said. “I don’t do it for the publicity."
Like the jail, his shops continued to operate these last few months.
“I understand the severity of what’s going on," Nelson said. "I've had one day off since this pandemic started. All my employees have been out through the whole pandemic. I know the fear that they have.”
The donation is one of many made to local first responders over the past few weeks. Some of those donations, including Gionino's Pizza, were coordinated by We ACT.
"We ACT is a community organization that responds to community needs when we can, where we can and how we can with love, peace, respect and understanding," co-founder Brigette Coles said.
Coles reached out to Mansfield Safety-Service Director Lori Cope in April, asking how the organization could help first responders. Cope responded that the best way to support them was prayer and meals.
After We ACT posted a call to action its Facebook page, Restored Visions provided groceries for the Mansfield Fire Department and Pizza Hut donated meals to the Mansfield Police Department.
“They do so much for our community every single day and with this situation that is happening now, they need our support more than ever," Coles said.
Cope said, "I appreciate the community's input in these unprecedented times. It has not been easy for any of us --from our schools, medical facilities, media sources, churches, businesses and families.
"Regardless, we have never experienced such an outpouring of pure kindness. Since 9/11, I have not witnessed such community connection and giving," Cope said.
"We are blessed for all the donations of food provided to our First Responders and we remain committed to serving our citizens," Cope said.