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Civic-mindedness rewarded with turkeys in Coatesville

Being pulled over by police and cited can be a stomach-churning experience.

Being pulled over by police and cited can be a stomach-churning experience.

Unless the officer is Rodger H. Ollis Jr. and he wants to talk turkey.

The Coatesville gendarme, who handles the department's community relations, was asked to orchestrate a bird giveaway for Wednesday. An anonymous donor had 40 turkeys that he decided should land on the tables of the most-deserving residents.

Ollis recognized an opportunity to create good will among the citizenry. But how to select the right recipients?

He found inspiration in his 8-year-old daughter. "I saw her do something nice for her younger sister," he said. "That was the 'a-ha' moment."

Ollis created a citation on Police Department stationery, but instead of naming traffic infractions or criminal offenses, it bore a checkoff list for such model behavior as driving safely, using crosswalks, and being courteous.

Recipients were chosen based on random observations made Friday, or performance of public service.

For the former, Ollis said, "I just parked my car and sat and watched people. It's amazing how people act when they don't know they're being watched . . . and what it reveals about their character."

When Ollis saw turkey-worthy actions, he announced, "You've been caught doing something right." Once people recovered from the shock, he said, they were thankful.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "Most people only interact with police because they've done something wrong or have been a victim, so this was a chance to make a positive contact."

For those who had performed public service, Ollis cited them at their jobs.

He remembered one crime victim, Frank L. Johnson Sr., who mentored a youth who had stolen from him. "I thought that attitude deserved to be rewarded," said Ollis, who tracked Johnson to the barbershop where he worked.

Frances Sheehan, who heads the Brandywine Health Foundation, said she had a moment of angst when Ollis showed up and sternly instructed her to witness the citation he was giving to Chaya Scott, who runs the Coatesville Youth Initiative, an outreach program.

"I was immediately concerned," Sheehan said, "and asked, 'What did she do?' "

Crystal Lowery, social-services coordinator for the Regency Park apartment complex in Coatesville, said she was also fearful - until she learned she had been "a positive role model."

Jeannette Hurdle, who has lived on Coates Street for 50 years, was cited for property maintenance. She said she would probably buy another turkey to feed her extended family, which includes six great-grandchildren.

Other recipients, such as Scott, said they would donate their bounty to charities.

The turkeys were distributed Wednesday at the police station. In the shadows, the unidentified benefactor watched and beamed.