The two officers also spend months preparing to host a summer bike camp for people with disabilities. Most campers at the iCan Bike Alpharetta event are children who will learn to ride a two-wheeler without supports for the first time.
It’s on the officers to raise the $10,000 camp fee, gather 150 volunteers to help, and register participants. One year donations ran short, and Clay’s parents paid the remaining bill.
Some years, they’ve also purchased bikes for campers who don’t have one, plus helmets and bike racks. Sometimes, they make deliveries if families have no way to get their bike home.
“It’s a labor of love,” said Clay, 34, who grew up in Alpharetta.
Hosting the camp and collecting used bikes aren’t part of their city jobs. These are just some of the ways they pitch in to help the community.
“We try to meet the community where they’re at,” Clay said. “It could be for helmets and car seat checks or the things we do with our homeless community to make sure they’re taken care of during the winter.”
Recently, Elfreth spent two hours at an assisted living community helping the elderly from falling by tightening the screws on their walkers.
“These are the things you don’t think about a police department doing,” Clay said. “We’re fortunate that the city of Alpharetta allows us to do this during the course of our jobs.”
Bike patrol officers also help organize Red and Blue Shops, a holiday event for underserved children.
Partnering with a local Target, selected children can come with their families and purchase presents with donated gift cards. Police and fire officers will guide them through the store, and there will be gift wrapping, cookies, and a visit with Santa.
“For some of these kids, that’s the only Christmas they’ll have,” said Elfreth, who collects donations and handles finances for the event.
All of these community activities make a cop’s job easier, in the long run, the officers said.
“Most people’s only contact with a police officer is when they get into an accident or get a speeding ticket. We’re lucky to have the time and the ability to do more,” Elfreth said.
Policing as a whole is having a paradigm shift, with departments realizing the importance of community engagement as a first step in crime prevention, said Clay.
“Before you come in with the enforcement act, sometimes it’s really helpful to have a relationship,” she said “I think police departments nationwide are learning that narrative.”
“But that’s how we’ve always been. It’s the way we police, and a little of our hearts,” Clay added
Elfreth, 44, came to the bike patrol after covering white-collar crime as a detective in Florida. He has degrees in finance and accounting. Clay was introduced to policing at age 14 when she joined the Alpharetta Police Explorers. She knew then what she wanted to do with her life.
Today, Clay runs the department’s explorers program and is able to give teens an insider’s view of public safety. It’s not always about chasing after the bad guys.
“I didn’t think this is what I’d be doing when I went to the police academy, but I’m glad that I am,” Clay said. “It’s the kind of policing that I wanted to be a part of all along.”
HOW TO HELP
Volunteer or donate to iCan Bike Alpharetta: www.icanbikealpharetta.org
Donate to Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation, supporting Red and Blue Shops and other events. Funds also help support public safety employees during medical emergencies. https://www.apsfoundation.org/
Learn more about Alpharetta Police Explorers: www.alpharettapoliceexplorers.com
WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT
This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.
Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.
We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead. We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.
And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.