Local police officer has our backs


Above, Brailyn Fritz is ready to play with a new volleyball as Officer Jacob Mills gives the two thumbs up on the fun being had by Columbia students thanks to the donation of sports equipment by Jackson Walmart via the Columbia Township Police Department.

Local officer goes the extra mile

By John Hummer

Milana Bobzean, left, and Noelia Aguilera having fun with a pair of new hula hoops.

Columbia Township Police Officer Jacob Mills, school liaison officer for Columbia School District, saw a need the Columbia Upper Elementary School had, and without hesitation, went to work to fill that need for the kids he watches over.

A school liaison officer generally helps schools with safety education, security, giving kids rides home when needed, and conducting investigations as needed. Then there is their heartfelt care for the students they see every day getting on and off the bus and at recess on the playground. This is where Officer Mills stepped in. (More below)

Columbia Upper Elementary School Principal Jennifer VanWagnen was chatting with Mills on the playground recently at the school. “We have a playground cart and we noticed it was lacking equipment,” VanWagnen said. “We definitely noticed and recognized that we needed some updated basketballs, soccer balls, and footballs; and we have four areas students can play four-square, and we have only one ball.” ( More below)

Alayna Hackworth and Daniel LaMay are trying out one of the new soccer balls.

As he likes to do, when there is a need, Officer Mills steps up to help. Last month, unbeknownst to VanWagnen, Mills did just that. “He showed up today with equipment!” she exclaimed. “How fantastic is that!” She noted how great it was to see their school liaison officer reach out to and connect with the kids. “We’re going to have our third-grade students out here and they’re just going to be so tickled to see this.”

Below: Koltyn Chapman (red sweatshirt) gives some love to one of the new balls donated by Jackson Walmart through the Columbia Township Police Department.

Officer Mills showed up in his police car at recess last with the back seat completely filled with sports balls of all types and hula hoops that light up. The equipment was donated by Walmart of Jackson.

“I remember [Mrs. VanWagnen] telling everybody that she was working on getting more – that they didn’t have a lot for all the different recess times,” Mills said. “I took it upon myself to make a few phone calls. The first call I made was to Walmart because I know they do Shop with a Cop. The first supervisor I spoke to said, ‘Yeah, no problem. We’ll get you whatever you need.’ They supplied me with more than enough to help these kids out. They were very excited, and I was very excited. I saw that the kids needed something, and I just took it upon myself to kind of fill in the gap and help out where I can.” (More below)

Above: Columbia Upper Elementary School students anxiously congregate around Officer Jacob Mills’ police car to be the first to try out some new balls and hula hoops donated by Jackson Walmart through Columbia Township Police Department.

 Upon arrival at the playground during recess, Mills opened up the back doors of his police car and invited the kids to grab the balls and hula hoops and go have fun. And that they did.

“I’m excited to make the kids’ day,” Mills said as he watched the CUES students play with big smiles on their faces. “I’m very happy that Walmart was willing to help out. They’re a great company – I was very happy and very pleased.”

Three hula hoopers and a basketball player, from left: Brinley Bates, Averyanna Wilburn, Allie Zuzelski, and Milana Bobzean.

Mills’ boss, Columbia Township Police Chief Jay Niles, was on hand for the delivery of the equipment and was equally excited. “[Officer Mills] took it upon himself to make this happen. I’m super proud of him for doing that. I think it’s great that we can fill the gap a little bit. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important we have our school resource position here – to help fill these gaps. I just think it’s super fabulous.”

Sawyer Dickerson is all smiles and ready to play with one of the new footballs.

Walmart is no stranger to helping communities and kids. The company traditionally hosts “Shop with a Cop” before Christmas so children from needy families can purchase gifts for family members and also receive a gift or two from “the cops”. Walmart generally puts on a present-wrapping lunch with the kids (when COVID isn’t an issue) with police officers there to help out.

Below: Columbia Township Police Officer Jacob Mills proudly stands next to his police car filled with new sports equipment donated from Jackson Walmart that he had delivered to Columbia Upper Elementary School.

“I’m super proud of our friends at Walmart for providing this,” Chief Niles said. “I think it’s just spectacular that the big box companies even help out the smaller communities. Walmart is a fabulous company. We’re super proud of everybody and hope the kids get a lot of enjoyment out of the little bit of contribution we’ve offered today. Everybody wins.”

Reilly Haynes is ready to hit the court with a new basketball.

Allie Zuzelski demonstrates top form as she spins a new hula hoop around her waist.

Kevin Briggs appears to be having the time of his life with a new hula hoop.

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