Cookbook proceeds help fund 'Shop with a Cop'
Each year, money for the Shop with a Cop program comes from various fundraisers and donations throughout the year. But this year, one donation showed what the Christmas spirit truly is all about.
It was about a year ago when Glenn Cagle, a cook at the Haywood County Jail, came up with the idea to write a cookbook and raise money for local needy kids.
In his own quiet way, Cagle gathered support from his kitchen coworkers and began soliciting jailers, deputies, dispatchers and other sheriff’s office staff to contribute their own recipes. He even paid for the upfront cost of publication out of his own pocket.
The cookbook was about four months in the making and features a variety of old-fashioned recipes from no-bake cookies to baked rattlesnake.
“All he kept saying was that the money was going to help underprivileged children,” said Deputy Heidi Warren, but no one knew what program he was donating to.
Then, a week before the annual Shop with a Cop event was scheduled, Cagle handed over $1,200 in proceeds from the cookbooks to go toward the purchases.
The donation came as a pleasant surprise to Det. Jeff Haynes, who is also president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.
"I was absolutely amazed and very appreciative," Haynes said. "I told him that was definitely a true example of grace."
The project was one that was personal to Cagle.
“I know how it is — I was an underprivileged kid myself,” he said, recalling a tough childhood.
He remembers receiving a bicycle and tricycle from a neighbor as a 6-year-old and the feeling of actually having a Christmas gift.
“I just wanted to give back somehow,” he said.
The extra money from the cookbook allowed the Fraternal Order of Police, the local organization that sponsors Shop with a Cop, to adopt extra children and even some needy elderly people from Salvation Army this year.
Cagle, however, was not always quite so put-together. When he was younger, in his late teens and early twenties, he was often arrested by some of the law enforcement he works with today.
“There was a time when I was in jail because I had a problem with alcohol,” he said.
One day in the 70s while in jail, Cagle remembers telling Waynesville Police Officer Keith Moore, who was a jailer at the time, that the kitchen food was “awful.”
“He asked me if I thought I could do a better job, and I said, ‘yeah,’ so he pulled me out to go cook,” Cagle said with a laugh.
It turned out that he did in fact have a talent and a passion for cooking. He was eventually hired part-time as a cook and then full-time in the jail, which has turned into a 21-year career so far.
“In a way, jail saved my life,” he said. “I had to either turn my life around or die.”
Now 57, he looks back on those experiences that made him the person he is today — the generous, compassionate and happy soul that police officers and jail staff have come to love so much.
Cagle has worked every Thanksgiving and Christmas day for the past 21 years to make sure the inmates get a special meal and also to help out coworkers.
In his mind, working holidays is just another way of giving back, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.
“If it were not for Glenn’s generosity, I would have to work holidays,” said Barnett. “He refuses me to be here when I need to be home with my family on Thanksgiving and Christmas and I love him for it. He’s like a brother.”
Even the inmates have gone out of their way to write thank you cards to him.
Though his donation to Shop with a Cop came as a surprise to Haynes, it didn't surprise him that Cagle would go out of his way to make a child's holiday special.
"Glenn has come full circle and now has the ability to give back to those that are in need. He has decidedly shown us the true meaning of Christmas this year," Haynes said.
When it came time to shop with the children, Cagle and his coworkers Barnett and Doris Davis were right there, helping kids pick out clothes and seeing the result of their hard work.
“I stood there and cried,” Barnett said. “When you get to see their faces light up when you put their things in the cart, it’s just wonderful.”
The kitchen staff hopes to make a new cookbook to help raise money for next year’s Shop with a Cop program.
To purchase a copy of the cookbook, contact the kitchen staff at the Haywood County Jail at 828-452-6670.