Through her work with the Columbus Division of Police, Nicole Banks is not only making an impact in central Ohio she also making an impact on those who protect and serve.
It was a chance encounter with a homeless veteran that set Banks on the path to service. In helping that one man — Nicole came to a life-changing realization.
“Sometimes the problems of the world can become very overwhelming. All you want to do is make a difference for one. Just focus on what’s in front of you,” remembers Banks.
From there Nicole created “The Starfish Assignment,” a group with two priorities. The first — to help people by partnering with Columbus Police on projects like “Books and Badges” where officers read to children in a classroom and the entire class is given a copy of the book.
Banks relates, “It’s such a fun program. All the kids love it they go in and they talk to the officers ask questions. It gives them a chance to interact with the police officers in their neighborhoods and they’re going to remember that experience. And it humanizes them. They realize that cops are people.”
Officers like Sergeant Dana Hess realize the value in that relationship.
Hess explains, “It makes them more willing to trust us. More willing to want to come to us when there is an issue. And hopefully, as they grow up and become adults more willing to connect with us and communicate with us when they have issues and problems.”
The organization’s second priority is to educate people about what officers do — above-and-beyond the day-to-day. Whether it’s fixing a car for a homeless couple or finding shelter for a mother and her children — officers step up quietly to help and “Starfish” is there to support them.
“We’ve had people put comments on there that they had no idea that officers were doing this kind of thing,” says Banks. “I had one officer tell me that it makes him feel human again. It reminds him that he’s human. The overwhelming majority of officers go to work every day to try to make a difference. Not just that they make a difference and those are the stories that don’t make the news.”
Now thanks to “Starfish” those stories and being told and it is promoting more good for the community.
“It absolutely inspires me. She makes me want to be a better person and a better police officer. And I think everybody that she comes into contact with, whether it’s law enforcement or the community, she makes you want to get out there to meet more people to impact the community in a positive way,” comments Hess.
Banks adds, “And we might not be able to change the whole world — but you know what? We stand a really good chance of changing Columbus. There’s a very good chance that we can make a really good difference in Columbus. So why not try.”
To learn more about the Starfish Assignment and all of the projects they support, visit: