BELMAR/LAKE COMO, NJ — During this time of home instruction, Belmar’s finest have come up with a fun way to keep in touch with the students they’ve gotten to know during the school year.

Every Monday and Friday, the police department posts a contest on its Facebook page that is open to Belmar and Lake Como children in prekindergarten through eighth grade. So far, the challenges to win a prize have ranged from a word search and crossword puzzle to an indoor scavenger hunt and drawing competition. And the winners can look forward to prizes that include pizza delivered to their homes, as well as candy, gifts cards, toys, games and other surprises — all courtesy of the Belmar police.

Now in its third week, the contest has received an overwhelmingly positive response from children and parents, said Police Officer Corey Whitman, who has been placed in charge of the contest by Police Chief Tina Scott.

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“All of the parents who have reached out have been very thankful and love the idea. All of the kids who have been winners appeared to be super excited,” Whitman said. “I think it’s just as important that we have received so much positive feedback from the parents of kids who didn’t win. Those parents have said it was a great break from their day and that the kids were so excited to participate.”

Students have until 10 a.m. today, March 28 to submit their entries to the contest that’s currently under way — drawing their favorite activity to do at home.  For details, visit the department’s Facebook page by clicking here.

The idea for launching the contest came shortly after home instruction became a reality earlier this month for students at Belmar Elementary School and St. Rose Grammar School.

“Many of the Belmar Police Department members were brainstorming ideas for ways that we could connect with the community, but still follow the precautions of social distancing,” said Whitman, who is among those Belmar officers involved in the schools’ L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) program. “We all wanted to do something fun with the kids.”

But there was another reason for their collaborative decision. “We all also know how hard it is for kids to understand what is going on right now with the emergence of COVID-19,” Whitman explained. “Many ideas were bounced around, but the contests seemed to be the safest and most fun for our community.”

Everyone — from officers to dispatchers — are involved in coming up with contest ideas. “Overall, it’s a team effort, and we have so many minds that are creative and invested in having a program to connect with the youth of our community,” Whitman said.

And despite the fact that Chief Scott has so much on her plate during these hectic times, he added that she makes sure to review each contest and the feedback the department is getting from kids and parents. “She is so involved with the community and cares so much about our relationship with the residents,” he said.

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