At a recent weekly meeting, the Florissant Rotary Club presented its first Paul Harris Fellows “Police Officer of the Year Award” to Officer Timothy Benning of the Hazelwood Police Department. Board members approved this award program as a way of recognizing outstanding first responders in the North County area.
“It is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our local first responders for laying their lives on the line for us on a daily basis,” Florissant Rotary Club president Dr. Chandra Kaup said. “We are recognizing all our local police officers through this one person. First responders are our heroes.”
Officer Benning started as a police officer with the Hazelwood Police Department on Jan. 16, 1989, after serving as a police officer for the Jennings PD for six years. He has dedicated most of his career serving as a school resource officer. In addition to helping students, administrators and faculty staff, Officer Benning has provided assistance to many families in need throughout the Hazelwood area.
Twenty-five years ago, Officer Benning undertook the task of creating the “Help Families in Need” program through a partnership with the Hazelwood Police Officers Benevolent Association. He partnered with BioMérieux as a primary benefactor of the program. In addition, Officer Benning has partnered with other local businesses such as Nature’s Bakery, Cabela’s, Bommarito Ford and Burner Design and Control.
He relies on their support and the generous giving of City employees and residents to provide holiday meals, clothing, toys and gift cards. He also helps those in need overcome obstacles that hold them back such as vehicle licensing, car repairs, back rent, as well as utility and medical bills. During the 2018 holiday season, Officer Benning plans to adopt 16 families in the Hazelwood area, which is the largest number of families he has helped in one year.
Those interested in donating a gift card or making a cash contribution can drop them off at the Hazelwood Police Department, 415 Elm Grove Lane, behind City Hall. Checks need to be made out to the Hazelwood Police Department Benevolent Association (HPDBA). The most requested gift cards are from the following retailers: Aldi’s; Schnucks, Sam’s/Wal-Mart; Target; Dollar General; Walgreens; and Quick Trip. For questions about the program, contact the Hazelwood Police Department at (314) 838,5000, ext. 1.
Officer Benning’s family, wife Paula and his sons Ian and Devin, share his altruistic motivation and help him when they can. He mentioned that early on in the program he would bring home the gifts that needed to be wrapped. Then his wife and sons would join him in the living room wrapping presents while watching a Christmas movie and drinking hot chocolate. Today, bioMérieux organizes a gift wrapping party for employees to help him get everything ready. To date, Officer Benning has assisted over 300 families and has impacted multiple generations of Hazelwood residents.