An event called Coffee with Cops will be held from 8-10 a.m. June 28 at Rock’s Heart of Restoration on Waco Street.
The event was originally planned for the Van Alstyne Community Center, but higher- than-expected attendance necessitated the move to a larger venue.
The morning will be an opportunity for residents to come up, have a cup of coffee and talk with officers from the Van Alstyne Police Department.
"The event is super informal. It’s just kind of a way for our community to say hi and thank you for serving us," organizer Bethany Budgewater said. "The response has been awesome. I love our little community."
This is the first time that Budgewater has organized a community event. She was motivated to act after seeing the amount of criticism aimed at law enforcement following the death of George Floyd in May by Minneapolis police.
Budgewater, who is white, moved to Van Alstyne with her African-American husband, Andre, last spring. About four months ago, the couple had their first child, a son named Adriel.
They have become friends with another neighborhood family with young kids, whose father happens to be a police officer for another city’s department. After talking about current events, the two families realized that they shared more common ground than people might think.
"It’s almost like everything that the news is talking about, that’s not really how our families feel about any of this," Bethany Budgewater said.
In her mind, she said, police are the ones protecting them. Instead of being criticized, she believes that they should be thanked for the job they do.
In fact, a small thank you was all she wanted to plan for the local department. But as word got out about the event, more people expressed interest in attending Coffee with Cops. It became much bigger than she ever imagined.
"It’s what keeps officers employed here, knowing that the community supports them," Van Alstyne Police Chief Tim Barnes said.
Bethany Budgewater said one of her biggest fears is that the amount of criticism officers are facing now may drive many of them away from the profession.
While not defending the actions of those who abuse their power or position, she said that characterizing all officers as racist or bad is simply wrong.
As a show of gratitude, Budgewater has made 25 goodie bags for officers. She will give one each to the 11 Van Alstyne police officers. The other 14 will be distributed to police from other agencies who live in the city.
"We have a great community and it’s people like her that make us a great department," Barnes said of Budgewater.
Since moving to Van Alstyne, Budgewater said that she and her husband have not had a single issue with anyone. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case when they lived elsewhere.
While living in Northern Florida, she said, they endured multiple incidences of harassment over their relationship. She recalls walking into a local Walmart and hearing someone hurl obscenities at them. She’s also witnessed parents yank their kids away from the couple as though they posed some sort of threat.
That’s why she said it has been so refreshing to live in a place like Van Alstyne, where an interracial couple can live in peace and also become friends with police.
Budgewater said her husband and police-officer neighbor both come home from work and play with their kids. They have a beer together on the porch while dinner is cooking and get up for church on Sundays.
This is the side of policing and race relations that she hopes more people will see. Ultimately, it’s one goal that truly motivates her.
"We are just trying to be good humans so that our son will grow up being a good human," she said.