Public employees across the nation give back to their communities in extraordinary ways every single day. From donating to food banks to helping neighbors and protecting their communities, public employees have always been there when their community needs them the most. 

Here are three stories of public employees in service to their communities:

Mystic drawbridge tender retiring after 33 years by Joe Wojtas. The picturesque bascule drawbridge that spans the Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut, is the hub of the town, and Rod Coleman has been at the center of that hub for 33 years. But this year, as the bridge celebrates its 100th anniversary, Coleman will raise and lower the bridge for water traffic one last time as he is set to retire from his position with the CT Department of Transportation as the bridge’s main operator. Coleman, who began his career in 1989–just one year after the release of the Julia Roberts film Mystic Pizza, which features the town and the bridge–will spend his retirement caring for his 22-year-old niece who he adopted when she was 3, and caring for his brother who is currently battling cancer. “I told him we will fight the whole way together on this,” he said, “I met a lot of great people here and had a lot of fun, but it’s a sign from the Lord that it’s time to go.” Coleman, who first saw the bridge go up as a child when his parents moved from California to Connecticut, said to his mother, “I’m going to get that job one day.” The 63-year-old went on to make that dream come true, becoming the most important man behind the scenes in town. 

Police L.E.A.D. Program to Bring Carnival to Brunswick Square by Maureen Burzock. The East Brunswick, New Jersey Police Officer Department is bringing fun–and education–to their community. Office Reggie White, who first brought the Law Enforcement Against Drugs (L.E.A.D.) program to fifth-grade classes in East Brunswick, is organizing a ten-day L.E.A.D. Fest Carnival to involve families in L.E.A.D. ‘s mission, which is to protect and educate youth and communities from the violence of drug trafficking, drug-related crimes, peer violence, and cyberbullying. This national program for K-12 students consists of a 10-week law enforcement-focused anti-drug, anti-violence curriculum. 

Burke men make humanitarian trip to help Ukrainians impacted by Russian invasion by Jason Koon. Jeffery Barrett, a teacher at East Burke Middle School in Connelly Springs, North Carolina, didn’t feel helpless when he watched the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he felt motivated to help. Barrett and two friends, Mark Perrou of Valdese, NC, and Eric Flemming of Oceanside, CA, set out in March to raise as much money as they could to bring to the ongoing humanitarian efforts in Poland for Ukrainian refugees. Upon returning home, Barrett, who is also a Marine Corps veteran, cited, “I had seen destruction in Bosnia and Iraq, but probably not on a scale such as this,” he said. “I think it’ll probably take a generation or more to rebuild.” Barrett and his friends spent some of their time helping with manual labor in a refugee aid establishment in Warsaw, but did cross the border into war-torn Ukraine. The trio all plan to continue their humanitarian efforts from home, with the possibility of returning next year.“If I could go back tomorrow, I would,” Barrett said. “They are people worth fighting for.”

Be sure to check back the week after next for more stories of public employees giving back to their communities!