NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—After Dotty McDonald lost her husband of 51 years, Hank, in 2015, the Newport Beach resident knew she had to keep her mind and body busy.
On a suggestion from her godson, who was then a lieutenant with the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD), McDonald enrolled in the Newport Beach Citizen’s Police Academy.
The 12-week hands-on course was exactly what the then-85-year-old retired nurse was looking for. She relished working alongside police personnel to learn about everything from SWAT operations to detective investigations.
“I fell in love with the program, and the people,” McDonald told The Epoch Times. “It made me young again. Literally, because sometimes I had to run to keep up with the officers.”
As soon as she completed the academy courses, McDonald was asked if she’d like to become a regular volunteer, she jumped on the offer. Since then, she’s logged thousands of volunteer hours with the department, doing everything from conducting vacation home checks to her favorite, scrutinizing pawn shops for stolen valuables.
Until recently, when back issues forced her to curtail volunteering, McDonald spent countless hours riding along with officers, sometimes during the 7 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. shift, sharing meals and becoming a shoulder to lean on during the lonely hours on patrol.
“We’d discuss private affairs; I think they looked at me like a mother or a grandmother that they could confide in,” McDonald said. Occasionally they would stop into Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store, a favorite local pizza joint, or grab a cup of coffee during their shift. Over the years, McDonald became a friend and confidante to many.
A few years ago, McDonald decided she wanted to do something special on July 4 for the hardworking men and women of the department whom she’d gotten to know and love.
“I love our military, and police, and I love our flag, so the Fourth of July felt right,” McDonald said.
An active member of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, McDonald casually asked her friends there if they would be interested in chipping in to help her purchase some Sgt. Pepperoni’s gift cards for the NBPD, knowing it was a department favorite. Everyone she asked responded with a donation, and an annual tradition was established.
This year, McDonald raised enough money to purchase $6,000 in Sgt. Pepperoni gift cards and another $4,000 for a favorite local coffee shop, which she donated to the NBPD this week.
“Dotty reached out to my wife Erica, and we pulled out all the stops to help make her idea a reality,” Sgt. Pepperoni’s co-owner Jeff Roberts told The Epoch Times.
“Dotty’s spirit, her energy and desire to serve others, and the love she has for our police force is just so inspiring. She is the type of person who can make all the difference for the men and women of the police force and all they are dealing with on a daily basis.
“She is providing real love and appreciation, and they feel it. She’s a small package with an unbelievable heart.”
Even though she can’t do the physical work with the department she once did, she says it won’t keep her from continuing to raise money for the gift cards each year as Independence Day rolls around.
“They’re so appreciative, but it’s all of us, the community they protect, who should show them how much we appreciate what they do for us day in and day out,” McDonald said.
“This is just my little way of letting them know that we care about them, that they have our support. With everything going on in the world, I think it’s important to show them the love and respect they deserve.”