This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on Mar. 31, 1986.
Zack Moore doesn’t do much talking about himself. But his deeds speak for him as far as the principal of North Philadelphia’s Reynolds Elementary School is concerned.
The career police officer from the 23rd District and runner-up for the George Fencl Award has “adopted” the nearly 800 children at Reynolds, where he provided Thanksgiving dinner last year and boxes of Valentine’s candy for every student this year.
“For some of the kids, it was the first time they’d had a box of Valentine candy or a full Thanksgiving dinner,” said Dr. Verneta Harvey, principal of the school at 24th and Jefferson Streets.
“He’s such a good role model — especially in these times when we’re hearing so many negative things about the police,” Harvey said.
The Guardian Civic League, which nominated Moore, 45, a police officer for 20 years, noted his close relationship to the school, as well as efforts on behalf of senior citizens, in its letter of recommendation.
Although Moore paid for everything out of his own pocket, “it’s not the gifts that count,” Harvey said. "It’s the symbol of someone who cares.
“The kids want to emulate a warm, caring man, and they know that Zack Moore cares. We love him and we know that he loves us. Whenever we have an assembly to thank him for something he’s done, he fills up. The tears flow. He’s very sentimental. He’s a very modest, humble person. He’s going to retire soon and I don’t know what Reynolds is going to do without him,” Harvey said. "He has made us feel very special. "
Moore, a bachelor who grew up in the South, where he says people are ''closer" to one another, is hesitant to discuss his good deeds, including Christmas presents for children he knows will never get them otherwise and a recent trip to a basketball game for 45 Reynolds students. “I just save up my money and do it. I manage to do it,” he says. But he grows talkative when discussing “the kids.”
Pride pours from his voice when he speaks about the birthday party Reynolds students threw for him near Valentine’s Day. “I walked up the hall and all the kids ran out of the classrooms. I was shocked,” he said.
"I think I got at least 500 [handmade] cards. They are the future,” Moore says of the children. "Very few of these kids are going to get out from that cycle they’re in. So I try to do as much as I can for them. "
He has been doing that since he first took street gang members to basketball games early in his police career. One old newspaper clipping talks of the Thanksgiving dinners he hosted for youngsters in the early 1970s.
Besides the physical sustenance, Moore wants to provide something more. He got other police officers from the district, located at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue, to help serve last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
“I just want the kids to know a police officer,” he said. "So that when the kids see a police officer, they won’t be afraid. "
Moore has even bigger dreams, though.
"Before I retire, I want to take the kids down to Washington to talk to the president.
“I took them down to City Hall,” Moore said, where they received a tour from City Councilman John White. “The kids were so impressed [by] the high ceilings and marble. City Hall is a beautiful place.”