By Anne Eickstadt

ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Officer Tim Blankenship and Officer Julie Kirk meet costumed kids in the community with candy and books the kids can keep.


On Halloween afternoon, trick or treating kids on 6th St. discovered Belvidere Police Officers Tim Blankenship and Julie Kirk in front of Fire Station #2 with a table full of books and a bucket of candies. The two officers were out assisting Badges with Books founder Police Officer Michelle Wilgus (who is currently injured) distribute books to the kids in the community.

“Officer Michelle started Badges with Books two years ago and the program has been very popular,” said Officer Tim. “She didn’t like it when children would often run away when they saw her drive by in her patrol car. Her question was, ‘How can we protect kids when they don’t trust us?’ So she did something about it.

“She thought books might be part of the answer and her idea began with handing out some books to children at school bus stops. In the early days she gave some books to boys riding bicycles and one of them asked, ‘Is this mine to keep?’ She answered, yes, it was. She told the boy that, if he wanted to, he could return the book to her so she could give it to someone else or he could just keep it. His choice.

“Two weeks later she was dispatched to an address where a little boy had called and said he was finished with his book. He wanted to give it to another kid. And he wanted a new book for himself. ‘That simply,’ she said, ‘he showed that what I was doing was right.’

“Word of her outreach spread through the community and she received hundreds of donations of books, from the Ida Public Library and private individuals. They filled the trunk of her car. No matter how fast we give books away, we have more of them stacking up…

For complete article, pick up the Nov. 8 Belvidere Republican.

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