Police officers serve Penn Hills restaurant-goers, raise thousands for food pantries
Dinner was served by the long arm of the law Tuesday evening in Penn Hills, as officers from several communities came together to help raise funds for local food pantries.
Off-duty Allegheny County, Monroeville, Pitcairn, Swissvale, Springdale and University of Pittsburgh police assisted Penn Hills' finest in tending to hundreds of customers for the second annual Tips for Cops at Mohan's Bar and Restaurant on Saltsburg Road.
Penn Hills officers Jason Bonace and Lindsey Bigger organized the fundraiser.
"Something like this makes you realize how many people truly support and care," Bonace said. "When we're on duty, most of the people we meet are having a bad day. Either they're calling the police because they're having a bad day, or we have to stop them on a vehicle stop because they violated a law.
"We're trying to serve our community in a different capacity and show them we love the community ... I feel like people aren't aware of all who need help."
Deacon Amy Santoriello of Zion Lutheran Church said her food pantry serves 170 families a month, and fundraisers like Tips for Cops really make an impact.
"This is a wonderful event that our police officers are pulling off to help those who are struggling in our community with food and security," said Santoriello. "It's always needed. People don't realize the need for cash assistance to food pantries.
"It is good to get donations of food, but we can buy more per pound from the (Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank) with cash than an individual can (at a store) and then donate (to us). There are also other things that food pantries need that you can't necessarily buy at the grocery store. We still have to pay our light bills and buy refrigeration systems."
There were 50/50 raffles, Chinese auctions and other activities. More than 20 officers volunteered their time.
Monroeville Officer Sarah Bonner assisted with the raffles. She got involved to help her friends on the Penn Hills police force.
"I can't wait till next year. Maybe we'll try to do something like this in Monroeville," Bonner said.
Kohl's in Monroeville provided four workers and a $500 donation. Mohan's also donated 10 percent of its sales during the event.
"I thought it was great. It was a huge success," Mohan's manager Jay Verba said. "I think the officers kind of liked seeing what it's like behind the scenes. I think there was a bigger turnout because people were familiar with the event, and had more participation from local businesses this year helping out with Chinese auction and we had a deejay."
Mohan's has been a Penn Hills staple since 1963.
Verba said the business hopes to host the event again next year.
"With a community event like that, we want the opportunity to be involved," he said.
Bigger said they started the fundraiser last year after participating in a similar event in White Oak.
"We just thought it would be a good way to reach out to the community and talk to a lot of people," Bigger said.
All donations have not yet been counted for this year's effort, but officers did earn $4,600 in tips alone.
Penn Hills raised about $5,000 total at the inaugural event.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, email@example.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.