The Gahanna community is showing support for its own police department, as well as standing with that of Westerville following the death of two officers in its division.

The Gahanna Division of Police also is supporting its brothers and sisters in blue in their time of need.

Westerville Division of Police officers Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, were shot and died of their wounds after responding to a hang-up 911 call Feb. 10.

Westerville resident Quentin L. Smith, 30, also was wounded in the exchange and charged with two counts of aggravated murder the next day. He was taken at 4 p.m. Feb. 18 to the downtown Franklin County jail from the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.

Jeff Spence, Gahanna's interim police chief, said Gahanna police have participated, and will continue to participate, in events honoring the service and sacrifice of Morelli and Joering.

"As an agency, there is no greater calling than 'Being There When Needed,' which is the motto of the Westerville police department," Spence said. "To provide aid during this time of unconscionable grief, members of the Gahanna Division of Police, alongside law enforcement partners from throughout central Ohio, will be providing police services to Westerville without diminishing our responsibilities to our own communities."

He said the outpouring of support for the members of Westerville's police force, and his own colleagues, has been extremely humbling.

"Thank you to the countless people, both near and far, as well as city staff members who have offered kind words and encouragement to our officers as they go about their daily work," Spence said. "We are truly blessed to serve and protect such a great community."

Residents respond

Gahanna resident Gale Cornute said God put it in her heart to plan a luncheon and card collection for Gahanna police.

Cornute, the wife of a Columbus Division of Police officer, also has many friends in law enforcement.

"With what happened with Westerville police being murdered, it hit close to home," Cornute said. "You see the news, listen and pray. You think, 'What can I do to make a difference?' "

That is when she began working on what she calls the Tri-C initiative, representing cards, care and concern.

"I'm moved to do something different with community and friends," she said. "I've received a lot of response. I'm not doing this just to be doing it, but to bring some blessings and positive out there, to let them know we care."

She said a box has been placed at Gahanna City Hall, 200 S. Hamilton Road, for anyone who wants to drop a card with a note of encouragement or a prayer for Gahanna police.

The box will be available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays through Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Cornute and friends also were scheduled to deliver lunch to the Gahanna police department on Feb. 21.

She said Subway, 110 Granville St., provided a discount for food and Kroger, 300 S. Hamilton Road, provided a cake.

"I have a friend who's a baker, and she will do cupcakes," Cornute said.

She said her church, Family Fellowship Church of Christ of Gahanna, also provided support.

Cornute said her goal is to lead the initiative of love, caring and concern by providing something for Gahanna police on a quarterly basis.

"We want to let them know we care," she said. "I pray for my husband every morning that he will come back in one piece."

She said the families of the Westerville officers killed in the line of duty need ongoing support.

"My husband's unit is donating money," she said.

In another demonstration of support, Gahanna resident Marco D'Andrea lined the roof of his family's house with strands of blue lights.

"We put up the blue today (Feb. 13), after watching the live stream ... before the funeral on television," D'Andrea said. "We just think it's a small way of showing respect toward the families and the officers and all of those affected by this tragedy. We think when people see a house with blue, it shows that people care and shows respect."

School support

Goshen Lane Elementary School Principal Melanie McGue said it's sad what has happened in the community at large, specifically with what occurred in Westerville.

"One of the things I love so much about our Gahanna community is the love and support we have for each other," she said. "The Goshen Lane staff has joined together to support our first responders, along with the families in Westerville."

On Feb. 20, the school planned to wear blue in support of the men and women who serve and protect them.

"We are also going to take up a collection and donate the funds to the families in Westerville," McGue said.

She said the school also has plans to read a book, "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" The theme of the book is to help others and be kind.

In that spirit, the school is collecting change in blue buckets this week.

"Our wonderful PTA has joined in to support the money collection," McGue said.

Jefferson Elementary School Principal Roben Frentzel, along with her colleagues, stuffed goodie bags on Feb. 14 to give to Gahanna police department personnel.

Knowing that the Westerville department is being inundated with kindness, she said, the staff decided to show its appreciation to Gahanna police by making treat bags, containing items including snack mix, granola bars, gum and water bottles.

A label on the front of the bags said, "Thanks for all you do! We LOVE YOU! From the staff of Jefferson Elementary."

"We delivered 80 bags and they really seemed to appreciate them," Frentzel said. "We wanted to make sure there was enough for all officers and support staff to know we were thinking of them on Valentine's Day and, of course, in light of the tragedy in Westerville."

Jefferson staffers indicated they plan to send something to the Westerville police department to show they haven't been forgotten.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla