As a charity dedicated to supporting police officers and their families, the members of Brothers Before Others have had the honor of meeting some amazing people. We’ve seen strength beyond measure. We’ve witnessed benevolence for the sake of benevolence. We watched families healing other families by simply standing with them at some of life’s most trying times. However, just when you’d think we’ve seen it all, let me introduce you Carol Stenquist.
Since 2000, Carol has served the Union Beach (NJ) community as a school crossing guard. In 2002 she was recognized as the Union Beach ‘Citizen of the Year’ for “Steadfastly volunteering your time, wisdom, service and dedication for the benefit of others.”
Over the past 19 years, she’s become a staple of the community. She makes a point to wave to every car that passes by. Ask anyone about her and they will all agree that her smile and her perpetual happiness are infectious. Carol has a love for what she does and the community that she serves that can’t be faked. She said, “I have memories of some of these children when they were so little, now seeing them grown up and high school or college. Some of them still come back to see me and even give me a hug and kiss. There is no better feeling in the world. It literally warms my heart.”
People are always asking her if she enjoys being a crossing guard. Her answer tells you everything you need to know: “My answer is always ‘Yes’. I love the kids. I love watching them grow up. I love the parents. I wave to every person that goes by my corner in the morning. I feel like there is no greater way to start the day than to have someone smile and wave to them. It makes me feel loved too.” How can you argue with that?
So how does this relate to Brothers Before Others? Glad you asked.
Since 2014, the National Flower Fund has sent a floral arrangement to every line of duty death service in the country. This has been a monumental task, funded directly from donation dollars; which has kept the charity in a perpetual state of fundraising, costing an average of $50,000 a year.
Union Beach Police Officer/BBO Trustee Matt Gajewski is in charge of overseeing the crossing guards and, by proxy, spends a lot of time with them. Matt also wears BBO and the work being done on his sleeve, so it’s no surprise that he and Carol would have conversations about the charity.
Carol has a deep appreciation for civil servants, specifically police officers. In fact, she snaps to attention every time a marked unit drives by her corner.
For the past few months, Carol has quietly (until now) been donating $20 a month to the National Flower Fund. She says, “I know it’s not much. But I want my blue family to know I support them.”
Matt felt that the group and our followers needed to know about this. The days of charity being between the giver and receiver only are long gone; especially when it comes to supporting the American police officer. That’s something that is needs to be trumpeted from hill tops these days. He explained, “I am so proud of what BBO has accomplished over the past 5 years. Carol is a perfect example. It’s amazing to see people come to me in my hometown and say, even though not directly, BBO’s mission has had a big enough impact on them where THEY find ME, literally every month, reach into their pockets, and hand me a donation. The world needs more people like Carol; people who genuinely care about their community and those who protect them.”
It’s said that you should never underestimate the power of the individual. If BBO has proven anything, it’s that looking into someone’s eyes, shaking someone’s hand, giving someone a hug and telling them ‘It’s going to be ok’ can have a profound impact on another person; and that takes only one person to do that. Brothers Before Others is successful because it is made up of people and surrounded by others who value the same ideology. People like Carol breathe life into our members and remind us of exactly why we do what we do. BBO Founder/President Michael Burke sums it up best: “There are many times I am asked to give my thoughts on a person’s actions or good deeds in order to paint a picture. There is no need for me to do that with Carol. You are already looking at a masterpiece. She is an inspiration to us all.”
So, Carol, on behalf of Michael and the members of Brothers Before Others, we see you, we thank you and we love you both for what you’ve done for your community and for our charity. If anyone ever wondered what makes our country and our communities unlike anywhere else in the world, you single-handedly reminded them!
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