PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Donna Hanson has been following Officer Darren Derby on Facebook for a few years now. And she's been following the progress he has been making in his push to purchase an ice cream truck.
Friday morning, the owner of Balderdash Cellars was prepping for a wine tasting on Saturday and she heard Derby talking on the radio. And she knows every little bit helps.
"I just think it is pretty cool what he is doing for the area. I am a big proponent of it because I think if you can affect one kid, it is a good thing," Hanson said.
She and her husband, Christian, decided that for every bottle of wine they would sell on Saturday, they'd give one dollar to Operation Copsicle. She posted it on social media.
"Owning a business you want to do something to give back. Normally, a regular person in the community wouldn't have an opportunity to do this but as a business, I have the ability to come up with these creative ideas where it doesn't really hit us hard but kind of helps," Hanson said.
Ashley Priester of Bella Sky Gifts saw it. She said she'd match it. Sarah Raschdorf from Adams Therapeutic Message and Boutique said she'd match it. Brenda Gold from Garden Blossoms Florist matched it. Alan Harris from Berkshire Money Management matched it. Tom Golin from Thomas Floor Sanding said he'd match it. Nancy Canino from MyCom Credit agreed to match it.
"I posted on Facebook and amazingly, I had all of these other small businesses reach out to me saying they would match it. A couple of regular citizens," Hanson said.
When Saturday came, Hanson placed a donation bucket on the table with a small framed piece of paper explaining the project. And all of those businesses met with Derby on Monday evening to hand him more than $1,000 toward the truck purchase -- $205 from each company.
Alan Harris of Berkshire Money Management didn't mind the quick timing. The pop-up wine tasting was being held at his offices in Dalton and when he got that call Friday, he didn't hesitate to contribute.
"When something like this pops up, that's unique, you want to make sure you carve a little attention to pay for it," Harris said.
Derby isn't entirely certain if he's hit his $50,000 goal yet. But, if he hasn't, he is only a few bucks short. And thanks to in-kind donations from a number of other businesses, Derby said the price to retrofit the truck has dropped significantly. What is leftover will go toward buying a whole lot of ice cream to hand out to area children.
"We should be around the $50,000 mark. So where we are now is in the process of ordering a vehicle. We are doing that with Haddad. It will be a used vehicle," Derby said.
Massive Graphics is giving him a discount on the artwork on the side of the vehicle; B&G Restaurants is donating a freezer and stainless steel shelving units; a company out of Worcester is rigging up the police lights; Climate Heating and Cooling is doing finishing work on the inside.
Derby estimated that the cost get a vehicle up and running has dropped from $30,000 to somewhere in the low $20,000 range because of those in-kind donations
"That number has significantly dropped because of donations from organizations who are helping to build the truck," Derby said.
The project has expanded somewhat too. It's not just an ice cream but also a traveling movie theater.
"We added an outdoor projector to it. That's already been donated. It is in hand. We will be able to go into some of our smaller housing developments and do a movie night. We have a popcorn machine and that'll be on board. We'll have exterior speakers," Derby said. "It won't be the first of its kind for a police-owned ice cream truck but it will be for a police-owned ice cream truck with a movie theater on board."
Derby is anticipating a $10,000 donation from Haddad Motors and $5,000 from Greylock Federal Credit Union to close out the $50,000 goal. That provides money for plenty of ice cream to stock the truck and anything extra will go toward a number of his other community outreach efforts.
The officer said he has also reached a partnership with the Church of Christ, which will take over managing the finances. There will be a community policing account created -- and the truck money transferred there -- to support the number of initiatives Derby undertakes.
"It has gone beyond my imagination," Derby said.
He hopes to have the truck ready to be in the Fourth of July Parade. But that is a tight timeline to purchase the van and outfit it for the road.
Hanson said when she came up with the idea, she was expecting to maybe raise $70. But, with the help of other small businesses, that jumped to more than $1,000. That $1,000 is now added to the $49,000 raised from other community groups, businesses, and individuals who donated to the cause in the last six weeks.
"He just shows an act of kindness. That's something we're really forgetting about lately. So anything I can do to help out, what little it is, is good," Hanson said.
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