The Comfy Cougar Program provides a bag to children from officers when there is a situation where a child has encountered trauma, for example, removing a child from a home or having to interview a child separately from an adult. Each bag includes a handwritten note, a children’s book and a plush cougar — the university’s mascot.
Averett students contributed to the project by writing the notes, and the CCECC assisted with funding.
Paul Deel, Danville Police Department’s lieutenant of services, called the program and partnership refreshing.
“Children in difficult situations will benefit from these bags, all thanks to a joint partnership with Averett’s Criminal Justice Department,” he said. “It is so refreshing that we can offer citizens something positive when they are in, what could be, the most difficult day of their life.” James Hodgson, Averett online’s criminal justice program director and professor of sociology/criminal justice, said he is pleased with the program and grateful for the opportunity to reach children in crisis.
“It’s another example of the blending and building of pathways between Averett University, the Danville Police Department, our students and our community in responding to children in need,” Hodgson said.
According to the police department, the project was first an idea from Chief Scott Booth who sought ways to reach children in the community in crisis and bring them comfort.
This partnership is part of his community engagement initiative, as he believes building authentic relationships is the key to policing.
“We were excited about Chief Booth’s forethought about this progressive initiative, and for Averett being able to strengthen our partnership with the department,” said Billy Wooten, Averett’s dean of engaged learning and executive director of the CCECC. “When Dr. Hodgson presented me with this idea a few years ago, we began brainstorming how we could reach those in crisis better. COVID delayed us, but today we celebrate this partnership with the department, and for bringing something positive to our most vulnerable citizens of Danville.”