Something has been deeply troubling Christina Nelson over the past few years — how America’s law enforcement is treated.
“Ninety-nine percent of these guys are extremely good people, but this narrative is being portrayed,” said Nelson. “They do this job everyday and I feel it’s a thankless job. They don’t get paid nearly enough.”
As the “Defund the Police” movement gained traction across the country, Nelson wanted local officers to know that they do, in fact, have support. A worker at LaStalla Italian Market in Newtown, Nelson began using her own money to buy lunch for her patrons in blue.
But she wanted to do more.
In December 2021, Nelson’s selfless gesture transformed into Fuel the Force.
While on duty, officers of the Middletown Township, Yardley Borough, Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, Upper Makefield and Lower Makefield police departments can eat for free at LaStralla, Tre Fratelli, Colonial Farms and Villa Rosa. This is made possible through residents’ in-person donations at the eateries and GoFundMe fundraisers.
To date, the initiative has garnered almost $15,000.
“When you’re in a profession that’s constantly being vilified and bombarded with that message on a daily basis, that takes a toll on anyone, let alone them and the job that they have to do normally,” said Nelson. “I was trying to think of a way to have a positive impact on the community in general, and a way to connect the community with law enforcement.”
Nelson never expected her idea to take off so strongly. She also didn’t anticipate the overwhelming gratitude from the participating police departments.
“The appreciation that comes from these men and women that wear this uniform for just that free sandwich is immense. It’s more than just a sandwich. It signifies a community member thanking them for what they do,” said Nelson. “They see death and destruction, they see people on their worst days. And if something this little can make such a big impact, it’s worth it.”
Several weeks ago, Nelson took her efforts a step further by hosting a Gratitude Gala at Rafters Venue in Newtown. Twelve police departments and 230 attendees enjoyed food, drinks and raffles, all donated by the community. Nelson stressed that no money was raised. The evening was simply to say “thank you.”
Currently, Nelson is working to expand Fuel the Force to each department in Bucks County. Her process begins with asking officers where they typically go for lunch. From there, she’ll head to that eatery to see if the owners are on board. At most locations, donations are loaded onto a restaurant gift card, and the cost of the meal is simply deducted from it.
There’s also plans to expand Fuel the Force on a national level by establishing it as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization within the next year. In the meantime, Nelson hopes anyone who stumbles across her idea feels inspired to implement their own version in their town.
“There’s no reason why anybody can’t do this in their community,” she said. “It’s the simplest thing with the biggest impact ever.”
Her work is driving other Bucks County residents to help law enforcement in unique ways. Jim Worthington, owner of the Newtown Athletic Club who attended the Gratitude Gala, recently announced that the county’s 1,000 active police officers and their families can enjoy a three-month membership until the end of the summer.
“My inspiration for doing this came from attending a banquet in their honor arranged by NAC community member Christina Nelson, who founded the Fuel the Force program, which provides free lunches to police officers throughout the county,” said Worthington. “This program is growing quickly and is supported by local restaurants. I thought if she could step up and support law enforcement, so could I.”
Ultimately, Nelson hopes that the small gesture of a free meal will boost officers’ spirits during this contentious time.
“They literally have targets on their backs at this point. Literally sitting ducks. You hear all the time about an officer who was shot dead in his vehicle,” said Nelson. “Appreciate your officers. They are under attack right now and they need support as much, if not more, than we need theirs. We need to take care of the people that take care of us and I can’t stress that enough.”
Fuel the Force GoFundMe pages are available for each restaurant and donations can be made in-person. Visit facebook.com/Fuel-The-Force-101005205770021 for updates and additional information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com