Annual COPS AND LOBSTERS event raising funds for Special Olympics

Deputies have served as Red Lobster waitstaff for three days, once a year, for nearly 20 years

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

COPS AND LOBSTERS, a three-day annual fund-raising event is in full swing (as of this writing) at two Midlands-area Red Lobster restaurants: One at the 10136
Two Notch Road location in Northeast Columbia, the other at 1270 Knox Abbott Drive in nearby Cayce.

I stopped by the Northeast Columbia location to visit with event director Captain Cole Porter with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD). Captain Porter is coming off a highly successful COPS FOR FOSTER KIDS bowling tournament, last month, in which he and the men and women of RCSD raised $27,000 for foster children in central South Carolina. Like Cops for Foster Kids, every penny raised through COPS AND LOBSTERS goes toward children; in the case of the current fund-raiser, children with special needs, specifically Special Olympics.

“Sheriff Leon Lott has always been very supportive of our department raising funds for all manner of vital charities,” says Porter. “But he seems to have a special place in his heart for children with disabilities.”

Though not an RCSD-exclusive event – the Cayce Police Department, the West Columbia Police Department, and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department are all simultaneously participating in COPS AND LOBSTERS at the Cayce Red Lobster location – Sheriff Lott’s RCSD is the sole agency working the event in Northeast Columbia. And the department has been involved every year since 2003.

According to Porter, COPS AND LOBSTERS, which began this year on Wednesday, Sept. 7 and runs through Friday, Sept. 9, is organized into two shifts each day. The first shift runs from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. with 10 RCSD deputies per shift, each man or woman assisting the waitstaff.

“Our officers are pairing up with a server,” says Porter. “They serve food, help prepare salads, greet the customers [with a smile], and hand them a Special Olympics donation envelope.”

Porter adds, “The deputies ask the customers to please tip their server first, then consider making a donation to Special Olympics.”

Everyone who donates $20 or more receives an olive-green Special Olympics t-shirt with a beautiful logo on the front and a list of supporting agencies printed on the back.

“We love it when families come in with children,” says Porter. “In addition to coloring books and crayons they get from Red Lobster, we give them a Special Olympics bracelet and a junior deputy badge. The kids love it.”

Indeed, while visiting with Porter and Sergeant (Ret.) Mike Still, State Transport Police (former S.C. Highway Patrol) who today serves as the Law Enforcement Torch Run liaison with Special Olympics, a family passed by with a curious 20-month old boy. Capt. Porter pulled one of the live lobsters from one of the tanks which fascinated young Jaxon [pictured here with his mom, Keagan Herring and dad, Rob Florez]. Jaxon also received a bracelet and a junior deputy badge.

How much does Porter anticipate netting for Special Olympics this year? “Between $7,000 and $10,000,” he says.

Assisting the meal-serving deputies are volunteers with RCSD’s Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

– For information about the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, please visit letr.org. For information about making post-event donations for COPS AND LOBSTERS, please contact Capt. Cole Porter at [email protected]