Wood County residents offer prayer, support for law enforcement
PARKERSBURG — People took time to come out Sunday and pray for local law enforcement officers during the Wood County Law Enforcement Officer Prayer Walk.
The second annual event, organized by Greg Hoover of Parkersburg, was originally scheduled in mid-July but had to be postponed.
Around 143 people, both area residents and officers, attended gatherings held Sunday at Tomlinson Park in Williamstown near the Williamstown Police Department, the Vienna Police Department, at the Wood County Justice Center near the Wood County Sheriff’s Office and the Parkersburg Police Department and at the West Virginia State Police Detachment along West Virginia 47.
Each location had a short prayer service and allowed residents to meet with officers to thank them and offer their support for what they do.
Around 45 people attended the gathering at the Justice Center, including over a dozen officers from the Wood County Sheriff’s Department and the Parkersburg Police Department.
“First and foremost, we want to talk about the safety of the law enforcement officers and the sacrifices they make for us every day,” Hoover said.
Officers were involved Sunday in a high-speed chase from Wood County into Marietta, dealing with a stolen vehicle which was discussed at the different stops, he said.
“I wish everyone would continue to pray for local law enforcement, state and federal,” Hoover said. “That is what this is about.”
Hoover got the idea to do gatherings like this last year after officers in Dallas were shot and killed by a sniper. The idea gained more momentum as more police officers were shot and killed across the country in the days that followed.
Today, officers are continually in harm’s way with another six who were shot Friday in Pennsylvania and Florida. As of Sunday, two of those officers have died.
Shelley Capel, of Parkersburg, came out to the service Sunday at the Justice Center to show her support for local officers.
“There are a lot of things being protested and a lot of hate and anger in the world,” she said. “This is an event where we can show love and support and protection.
“I do believe prayer does protect and that is why I came to help.”
Don Wehr, of Wood County, is a former law enforcement officer and a retired pastor who spoke about the need for officers to remain safe out in the community.
“We totally support what our officers and first responders go through in protecting us and keeping this country a country of law and order,” he said.
Wehr prayed for a hedge of protection around all officers, angels to protect them and their families.
“We pray this so they will be protected when they go into these situations, which are unknown and can be very hostile,” he said adding they were praying for the wisdom of each officer to be able to deal with what they face for everyone’s benefit.
Wehr is also working to start up a chaplain’s group to serve local police so officers can have someone to call if they need spiritual guidance or counsel.
Participating Sunday was important to Wehr because of his experience as a former law enforcement officer.
“I have been on the other side of the badge as a deputy sheriff and as a federal officer,” he said. “I know what they are exposed to.
“Most people in the ministry do not. They don’t understand the situations officers step into.”
There have been a lot of changes since he was an officer with more officers working on their own.
“That is a risky situation,” Wehr said. “They are standing out in a vulnerable world.
“They try to do the best job they can.”
From drugs to family violence and more, it is difficult for officers.
“I have a great deal of admiration for these officers,” Wehr said.
Hoover said next year he is planning to open the Prayer Walk to all first responders, including police, fire and emergency medical personnel.
Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said all of the officers were thankful to the people who came out Sunday to pray for them.
“It is awesome,” he said. “I know the officers appreciate the fact the public supports them and is willing to come out on their own time on a Sunday afternoon and openly pray for the safety of our officers.
“It is very much appreciated.”
Although there are some detractors, Stephens said there are so many in the local community who support them.
“We know the majority of the community supports law enforcement,” he said.