AMHERST — When word started to spread through Amherst that one of the town’s own had been shot while on duty, parents knew they had to do something.
Amherst police Officer Eugene Ptacek was shot while on duty with the Lorain County SWAT team during a Sheffield Lake standoff May 31. He was in serious condition Tuesday at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
Ptacek was a common sight at the drop-off line at Powers Elementary in the morning, greeting kids as they came in and keeping a watchful eye on arrivals.
“It was always good to have him there,” said Sarah Kucbel, president of the Powers PTO. “It’s just very nice having a police presence there.”
Some PTO parents suggested doing something for the officer, but planning an event was difficult in the immediate aftermath of school letting out for summer break, the same day Ptacek was shot.
The group, in brainstorming with some members of the Nord Middle School PTO, came up with a solution: placing a card box in the lobby of the Amherst Police Department so kids could have a place to deliver handmade get-well wishes.
The box went up at the end of last week and has been emptied several times. Initially, the group posted on the Facebook page it created that it would be in the lobby through this week, but it probably will stay in place until cards stop coming in, said Sarah Crosby, a member of the Nord PTO. This week her children are attending a camp and Crosby dropped off card-making supplies for all 70 campers.
“It think (the response) has been very positive. People in our community have a way of always pulling together to help others,” Crosby said.
Kucbel said the box is not just for school kids, but anyone who wants to pass along encouraging messages.
Other community efforts have included at least one area church delivering food to the officers on duty.
“My kids were upset to hear that he was hurt. I think it is important as a parent to raise kids to help others,” Kucbel said. “Often these situations are tragic and sad but if we take these opportunities to teach them to help someone, it helps our community at the same time. It helps the police officer and his family, it lets our Amherst police know we support them and are praying for them, and it helps our kids deal with the situation.”