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Courtesy photo

A ceremonial presentation of the $1,000 donation took place March 5 in front of Arlene’s Beans in Monument. From left, Monument Mayor Don Wilson, Bobby Padilla, Arlene Padilla, Marcy Deeds, Monument Police Chief Sean Hemingway, Sgt. Timothy Johnson and Cmdr. Jonathan Hudson.

MONUMENT • Arlene Padilla always had a passion for law enforcement, so much so she was once in training to become an officer.

However, her passion for cuisine took her on a detour into the restaurant business, and she opened Arlene’s Beans nearly five years ago. Since becoming a restaurateur, Padilla has made it a mission of her business, to give back to the community in several ways.

The latest example of Arlene’s Beans doing more for the area than just offering New Mexican and Mexican fare was a Give Back night recently to aid Shield 616 in providing the Monument Police Department with protective gear for its officers. The event raised $1,000, all of which will go to help the local police officers.

Shield 616 is a nonprofit organization which facilitates the fundraising for and purchasing of police officer protective gear manufactured by Angel Armor in Fort Collins. The armor is designed to custom fit officers and protect from rifle and handgun fire while bein lightweight enough to be worn throughout the day. Shield 616 works with several other foundations to help fund specific projects.

Law enforcement agencies in need of help raising funds will reach out to Shield 616, then the organization helps the agency work on a goal to meet their needs, the funds required for it and a design a fundraising plan.

Padilla said events like Give Back nights are important to her, whether they are for public safety agencies or other groups. In the past, Arlene’s Beans has been a destination for field trips from schools in the Lewis-Palmer School District.

“Most of these organizations are a big part of our community,” Padilla said. “Many of our children or individuals count on equipment, uniforms and enrollment. They are also very short on funds.

“We are very much invested in our community as we have lived in Monument for 15 years. We have felt support from countless teachers, churches and many others.”

When the opportunity arose to aid the Monument police department, the decision was easy, Padilla said. The mother of seven said her family have always felt protected in the community by “heroic individuals.”

Padilla’s respect for law enforcement began at a young age. In her late teens, she was in a program with the Albuquerque Police Department to become a Police Service Aide. After graduating, she would have had the chance to become an officer.

“I went through training for a few weeks,” Padilla said. “I’ve always wanted to become an officer, but obviously God had different plans.”

Although she wasn’t the one in the family to wear blue, she is proud of her nephew who now serves in the Albuquerque Police Department.

Padilla said Shield 616 is especially important to her since she knows the family of fallen El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick, who was killed in the line of duty on Feb. 5, 2018. Last week’s fatal shooting of a Boulder Police Department Officer Eric Talley, also a parent of seven children, also hit home for Padilla.

“There has to be a better way to protect our officers,” Padilla said. “Funds aren’t always there, and it is important to help our organizations when they ask. … I encourage other businesses in Monument to help our organizations in any way that they can. Our community depends on us small businesses. It’s not all of our money to keep.”

Shield 616 works with agencies when donors have a specific agency they desire to fund. The organization’s website, shield616.org, allows donors to choose a specific agency to fund and even a particular officer they would like to help protect.

“Each agency has a fund for their department,” said Shield 616 donor relations manager Marcy Deeds. “We place a purchase order for Angel Armor to have the officers measured and gear is ordered. The invoice is paid with funds from each specific project fund.”

In the case of aiding Monument Police Department, Shield 616 Board President Steve Phillips, also a Monument resident and business owner, has worked with his local church to also help the fundraising effort.

Deeds said helping this particular agency is “close to home for us.”

“We just love them and what they do,” she said.

Field trips to Arlene’s Beans has also been a way Padilla has wanted to give back, relating to financial hardships of parents attempting to have children participate. When she was a little girl, there were times Padilla’s parents “opted out” on trips because there were no funds available for her to attend. As a mother herself, she was also faced with such challenges but is grateful to the Lewis-Palmer School District for making available field trip scholarships, she said.

“We certainly used them in our past, and now we can give back,” Padilla said. “I want all children to be able to make it to a field trip at some point of their lives, not necessarily only to Arlene’s Beans but any field trip.”

Field trips to Arlene’s Beans have been important to Padilla to help children understand what goes into making authentic homemade food, she said.

“They see first hand how pinto beans get sorted, cleaned then transformed into something magical,” Padilla said. “Most kids are picky, but if they see and help with the process, they are more inclined to taste what they create. They leave understanding the New Mexican or Mexican culture.”

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