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Starting his career in 1990, Chris Eberhard has spent over 33 years as a Grove City Police Officer. Born and raised in Grove City, he is the oldest of 5 children, graduating from GCHS in 1984. Chris has a strong sense of community, and a passion for helping whenever or wherever he can. When his son was young, Chris would regularly volunteer his time in the classroom on Fridays at JC Sommer Elementary - believing parental involvement is crucial to a child’s development; he coached his son’s GCKA soccer team from 1999 to 2007.
Each year, since its inception, he volunteers for the annual GCPD Cram-a-Cruiser toy drive that benefits children under the care of Franklin County Children Services. During COVID he delivered food to the elderly and the area’s most vulnerable residents. Each winter he helps the elderly clear snow off their driveways and sidewalks. In his free time, he enjoys bike riding, fishing, camping and spending time with friends and family.
I met Chris for the first time during the food pantry effort mentioned above. It was Spring of 2020, in the early phase of COVID when there was no vaccine. The Grove City Food Pantry’s otherwise dedicated and reliable senior volunteers were at great risk, and could not safely volunteer inside the pantry’s Columbus Street quarters.
Recognizing this sudden unavailability of volunteers, we quickly put a call out for a group of new volunteers to be delivery drivers to deliver food to our area’s needy. During weekdays, I worked with Chris dockside at the Grove City Food Pantry on a nearly daily basis, prepping deliveries, loading volunteer cars, and loading his police car up for those deliveries. Crime was significantly down during the COVID lockdown, and our police force was taking community service to the highest level. Chris and I would talk when waiting for the kitchen to bring our deliveries dockside. We also sometimes would go out on deliveries together.
These were tenuous times for our country, not just because of COVID, but because this time coincided with the national backdrop of the George Floyd and Ahmed Arbery murders. It was a trying time for so many in law enforcement and also for citizens across the nation to process. The Black Lives Matter movement was also part of the national discussion. I often found myself thinking deeply about these societal vectors, trying to get my head around them all, and make some sense of what was taking form.
Chris was easy to talk to, and we talked occasionally about these matters: the life of a police officer, the daily dealings with residents when they are often having some of their worst days. I came to know him personally and better understand his life as an experienced GC police officer. Through these discussions, he showed me this compassionate, humane side of one police officer, Chris. He was making an impact on me that was irreversible. I actually saw him take guff from one of our residents, when he was delivering this emergency food to them in desperate need. He just shook it off, rationalizing why they were so jaded to a police officer in uniform, delivering their daily bread. In those 8-10 weeks of working with Chris, he impacted my life in a way that few others had. He was some kind of nova for me, a stellar example of a role model law enforcement officer.
I want to share a brief story he told me. It is just one example of countless incidents he has been involved in, where he truly was in a very difficult and dangerous situation. There was a man at the bus stop behind Bob Evans on Stringtown Road, who was from Columbus and had just arrived on a bus to Grove City. He was intoxicated and causing problems. When GCPD Officers arrived, he wanted to fight them and anyone that approached him. Chris came upon the scene which was going south quickly. He talked to the troubled man and reminded him that they knew each other from an encounter several weeks before when he was intoxicated at the Grove City Target. They talked a bit and Chris was able to de-escalate the situation. The man settled down and Chris was able to give him a ticket for disorderly conduct and drive him home to Columbus without a fight. After all that, Chris got a Thank You from the man for helping him settle down and comply when he only saw violence as a way out of the situation he was in. During those weeks of working alongside him, he was a reminder to me that any grouping of individuals, whether it's our work organization, our families, our church, our political parties, our race, our ethnicity etc., is made up of unique and diverse beings. Chris was living proof that inside all of these groupings, we are not all the same, and one doesn’t always equal one.
I have seen Chris many times since we first met in 2020, often times riding his bicycle to/from work. Whenever I see him, he just carries himself so well, whether on or off duty. To me, he is not just Chris, the long serving Grove City Police Officer. He is in hockey terms, the positive player on the ice, and one of the most caring people I know. Please me and others on Thanksgiving morning, prior to the 9am Thanksgiving Wattle 5K Start, in extending appreciation and heartfelt congratulations to Christopher Eberhard, an unassuming local hero, and the 2023 Thanksgiving Day Lifetime Impact Award Winner.