LAUREL, MD. (WUSA9) - One good deed leads to another.
In Laurel, Md., the result has been an avalanche of strangers contacting the police department to make donations.
Now there's an opportunity to help hundreds of kids and families instead of just one.
First the backstory: All the giving is inspired by a July 22, Facebook post showing a rookie officer shelling out $15 of his own money to buy diapers for a woman who had been caught shoplifting to support her kids.
Officer Bennett Johns told reporters he was raised by a single mom, and the shoplifting suspect's plight touched him.
During the encounter in a Giant grocery store, he did what was required by law by writing the woman a summons on the shoplifting complaint. Then he did what was required by his heart, by purchasing the diapers she had tried to steal.
Since posting the encounter on Facebook, Laurel police report fielding lots of requests for citizens looking to donate money, diapers and other household necessities to the mother who could not afford the diapers.
Others wanted to send money to reimburse Officer Johns for what he spent.
That's where police Chief Rich McLaughlin sensed opportunity to do exponentially more good.
The department is asking people offering donations to make them in Johns' name to a trusted local non-profit that can guarantee that diapers, food, money and other donations will go directly into the hands of people in Laurel who need them quickly.
The Laurel Advocacy and Refferal Services, Inc (LARS) could sure use the help.
"I try not to get nervous when I see empty shelves," said Executive Director Leah Paley. "But this is a really difficult time of year for us."
Paley stood in the LARS food pantry which was only sparsely stocked.
"There are a lot of people struggling out there every day," she said.
"One of the first things to go is diapers and baby items," Paley said as she looked at a half empty shelf with only two and a half cases of diapers on hand.
Paley said one woman in need of help this week is just about to deliver a baby, but has no items to care for the child.
LARS helps at least 1700 Laurel families a year. Most have kids.
Paley said Laurel police here are very responsive and supportive to people who are struggling with both poverty, homelessness and mental health issues.
Donations in Johns' name can be made online at http://www.laureladvocacy.org/index.html.
Donors can also drop off items after calling ahead to LARS at 301-776-0442. The non-profit is open Mondays, Wednesday's and Fridays.
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