FERGUSON, Mo. – As nightly demonstrations continue in Ferguson, neighbors say they are now seeing more community members engage in positive interaction with police. A sign of progress, some say, since the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
Some of those positive efforts to build relationships were witnessed as law enforcement officers and neighbors came together in a major community service project on Saturday afternoon.
Hundreds of people gathered along Canfield Drive as a large 18-wheeler maneuvered its way through the crowded and narrow street on Saturday. As the doors to the big rig opened, dozens of clergy members in orange t-shirts, volunteers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and St. Louis County Police formed a line behind the truck and began unloading bags of groceries.
"Those of you who are not carrying nothing, I need you to kind of scoot back," shouted one man as he began directing a crowd of volunteers and neighbors. "You don't have to be here to get the box, you can go home and you'll still get it."
Several religious groups, including Life Church and Clergy United, partnered with Crisis Aid International, law enforcement officers, and neighbors in an organized community service event. They passed out groceries to neighbors at three apartment complexes in the community where Brown was killed.
"We wanted to do something to build a bridge and to let the people know that we care," said Pastor Rick Shelton of Life Church."
Volunteering to distribute the grocery donations was a neighborly effort, according to some law enforcement officers, after two tense weeks following the deadly shooting that's gained international attention.
"First and foremost, we want them to see us as people too," said St. Louis County Police Lieutenant Jerry Lohr. "We're starting to see people dig in on both sides of the issue. We want to try to bring everybody together. We to be able to relate to them, and we want them to be able to relate to us."
Volunteers hit the streets, handing out 1,100 bags of food to families at Northwinds, Oak Mount and Canfield Greens apartment complexes.
"As the days have been progressing, it's been becoming peaceful," said neighbor Alecia Alston as volunteers handed her a bag of groceries. Alston and her friends say the simple act of service shows Ferguson is standing strong.
"You know, every community has crime, everybody have people that's good and that's bad. It's not like our community is the worst ever," Alston said. "It's peaceful."
Crisis Aid International donated the groceries. Organizers say it took partnering agencies one day to plan the community service event.