The chief is a bit flabbergasted at all the attention thrown his way. Mt. Juliet Police Department Chief James Hambrick said helping people "is a big part of my job."
What he did Monday around noon is part of the norm. Not a chief that sits at his desk all day, Hambrick regularly takes the time to patrol the streets and visit businesses to keep in touch. This particular time he heard dispatch get a call about a man in a wheelchair precariously close to traffic on the Interstate 40 off ramp in Mt. Juliet.
"I was in the area and told them I would go see what was going on," said Hambrick.
The man, known now as Bill, had all his belongings in bags strapped to his chair and he was trying to sell The Contributor, a newspaper typically sold by the homeless. Along with the danger of being too close to traffic, it's against the law to sell the newspaper along roadsides in Mt. Juliet without a $50 permit.
"He couldn't afford the permit," said Hambrick.
Bill told Hambrick if he could sell a few more papers he could afford a room.
"I understand that," said Hambrick. "He was trying to get out of his environment to better himself."
Hambrick got in touch with Mt. Juliet Church of Christ to see what could be done to help the man. In the interim, he took the homeless man to lunch at Quiznos and bought him a sandwich and a drink.
"The temperature was dropping and he needed to get out of the cold," said Hambrick.
He said the church stepped up, "as they always do," and arranged transportation to take the man to Hendersonville where he knew some people and also to a place he could sell the paper legally. Hambrick said the man was adamant about not going to the Nashville Rescue Mission.
The department's chaplain and a preacher, Hambrick is humble about the social media buzz over his act of kindness. After the department posted about the incident there were over 1,000 responses giving him kudos.
"It was simply the thing to do," he said. "It's about being a servant."
In fact, the night before, another longtime MJPD employee encountered the same man sitting in his wheelchair at the Mapco in south Mt. Juliet. Cpl. David Stolinsky also followed his heart and contacted the local Quality Inn. He put a night's rental on his personal credit card and made sure the man had a warm place to stay.
The church is going to reimburse him, but for years Stolinsky, along with so many other officers, have dipped into their wallets to help a citizen in need. A midnight shift partner helped him wheel Bill over to the hotel.
City employee Dennis Buchanan worked diligently with the church to work out logistics in getting the man to a safe environment.
"I've worked the streets for years with the chief and I have benefitted from his example of compassion," said Stolinsky.
They said they work with people on a daily basis.
"We really don't need a pat on the back," he said. "Or a few minutes of social buzz. This is what we love to do."
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.