Tip a Cop fundraiser

Temple Police Officer Lee VanGilder, left, and Texas Roadhouse employee Shawna Henson bring food out to customers during their Tip A Cop event on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

The Temple Police Department put its customer service skills to the test during its Tip a Cop event Thursday night at Texas Roadhouse — an annual happening that benefits Special Olympics of Texas’ athletes.

Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said that around a dozen officers, in addition to civilian staff, spent the evening serving as guest waiters and waitresses.

“It’s been great getting back out with people again,” he said. “The Temple Police Department has supported the Special Olympics of Texas for several years now … and I just think this is an awesome opportunity to support really good athletes.”

Temple Police Officer Micaela Mersch agreed and added how Thursday was a great opportunity to engage in conversations with the local community.

“It’s really great to connect with the community … especially right now since relations aren’t the best,” she said. “This is a way for us to get people talking, so that we can discuss different issues that people might be having and if there’s any way we can help.”

Alejandra Arreguin, police department spokeswoman, said the last Tip a Cop event — held in 2019 prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic — raised $2,800.

Reynolds, who was excited to see so many area residents pack the restaurant Thursday night, is hoping this year’s initiative exceeds that figure.

“We’re hoping to raise as much as possible,” he said.

Michael Smith, owner of the Texas Roadhouse in Temple, said Thursday’s crowd was the most active he has seen his restaurant during the Tip a Cop event.

“I’ve been the owner for three years and this is looking to be the most successful one so far,” he told the Telegram. “It’s the most people we’ve had and I’ve been seeing so many smiles from guests, staff and police officers. It’s all been really nice.”

Smith emphasized how the Tip a Cop partnership with the Temple Police Department is always a fantastic way to pledge support to the Special Olympics of Texas.

“I feel like a lot of times the Special Olympics team gets thrown off to the side … so having events like this, which brings awareness to the community, is a great thing for everyone involved,” he said.

Angelique Pratt, a service manager at Texas Roadhouse, said she loved working alongside local officers.

“I was so sad we didn’t get to do it last year with COVID-19 going on because it’s actually one of my favorite things that we do here,” she said. “It’s a really rewarding experience for such a good cause … and it’s been really fun working with the officers. They make me laugh so much.”

Smith said his restaurant plans to hold similar events in the near future.

“Over the next year, we’re going to do as much as we can to get involved with the city of Temple and just give back to as many organizations, like the Special Olympics of Texas, that we can,” he said.