When Pride Month was celebrated last month, some may have noticed a specialty patch worn by members of Hopewell Township Police Department.
The patch was the idea of Detective Alexis Mirra to show the department’s support and commitment of the LGBTQ+ community.
The idea came about after department leadership opened up the floor for ideas on how the police department can better engage the community.
“Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I am aware of some of the issues we in the community face and thought that this would be a really nice gesture and a way for us to show the community we are committed to serving everyone and to be allies,” Mirra said.
The Pride flag colors were present all around the patch and through the patch letters. Mirra’s idea for the patches arose from her own continued collection of police patches and other police departments that have also done different types of specialty patches worn by their officers across the country in places such as Salem, Massachusetts.
“Through my own personal experience, the badges are highly collectable, so I thought it would be a possibility for us to make a decent amount of money on and something people would want to buy,” she said. “We are not the first Pride patch in the country by any stretch, there are a lot of different departments that now do Pride patches, mostly on the West Coast.”
As part of the initiative, Mirra and the department sold Pride patches with all of the proceeds from patch sales going toward Triad House, a 24-hour residential group home for youth in Ewing.
Not only were individuals able to purchase one of 300 patches at the department, patches had also been available at Dandelion Wishes in Hopewell Borough and Tipple and Rose in Pennington.
“I would love to see this be something that we do on yearly basis and would actually love for this to be something that we do for other causes as well and other parts of the community, too,” Mirra said. “I would love to see us do an autism awareness one, breast cancer patches and things such as that. I am hoping that this is just the start of us being able to do a lot more of these types of initiatives for the community.”
The department itself raised about $3,000 without including the sales from Tipple and Rose and Dandelion Wishes.
“I was surprised by how quickly we got to the fundraising amount we did and it was humbling and wonderful, the response we have gotten regarding these patches,” she said.
Nonprofit Life Ties runs Triad House, which is receiving the funds raised. Triad House services youth ages 16-21 and in 2008 became the only group home in New Jersey for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, according to Life Ties.
“Triad House is one of two of our group homes for youth,” said Lori Morris, executive director of Life Ties. “I actually first had the pleasure of speaking with Detective Mirra, when she told me what she had been planning to do and we were just incredibly touched. Unfortunately, there are many places where LGBTQ+ youth don’t feel welcome. It really is a huge statement to have the police have those patches on saying we are here to support you and we are allies.”
The money raised could assist Triad House with recreational activities, life skills training (budgeting, college interviewing, job interviewing, etc.), upgrading the house, and continuing to make certain the environment is a calming atmosphere.
“By the time they are admitted into our group home, our goal is to make sure they are stabilized and then it is to help start working towards being self-sufficient,” Morris said.
In 2020 during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, what was particularly hard for the youth in at Triad House had been the limited contact with others.
“That it is really important for our youth, particularly LGBTQ+ youth, to have a lot of contact with others and support and it was hard. The classes were all remote and we wanted to make sure people were not feeling isolated,” Morris said. “The other thing that was extremely challenging this past year is the visits to the home were limited because of the safety guidance received. Our youth and staff were just tremendous getting through what they had to with the pandemic.”