FIRST, VERO CREATES JUSTICE AND HONOR TASK FORCE
In response to the social unrest in the nation following the killings of George Floyd and other African Americans last year, First Presbyterian of Vero Beach sought to learn more about the issues, and responded by working to create avenues for encouraging relationship-building within their area. After speaking with former CFP Moderator Rev. Erika Rembert Smith, pastor at Washington Shores Presbyterian, about the issues of injustice facing African Americans, Chair Mimi Rutland, said "we felt compelled to create a Justice and Honor Task Force under the umbrella of the Missions Committee, to build positive relationships between the Law Enforcement Community and communities of color here in Indian River County."
The multi-racial/ethinic task force has 11 members including Deputy Sheriff Milo Thornton who is the highest ranking African-American Deputy Sheriff in Indian River County and Jonnie May Perry who is the Director of the Gifford Historical Museum. Also, Rabbi Michael Birnholz has also joined the task force.
Rutland said the committee recently had the joy of participating in two events around the holiday season: “Shop with a Cop” and a "Bicycle Giveaway." "Shop with a Cop" was sponsored by the Indian River County Sheriff’s Department. Underprivileged children, identified by School Resource Officers, were given gift cards and taken shopping by an IRC Sheriff. The “Bicycle Giveaway”, was held for the second year in a row. This is sponsored by the IRC Sheriff’s Department in conjunction with their partner, Walmart. Two hundred twenty-six bikes were given to needy children in our community. This event was held on Saturday, December 19, 2020 at the Intergenerational Center in Vero. Rutland said, "Our committee was able to make a substantial contribution to both of these worthy causes."
In addition to the financial donations, Rutland said, "we are also tackling some social issues that include, but are not limited to, economic, medical, and housing equality. For example, the East Coast Railroad has a regular train stop across a road that impedes access to the hospital for the predominantly African American Gifford Community. The task force is writing letters to the Council and the East Coast Railroad requesting the train stop be moved in order resolve the situation.