Project Blue Light gives strength to first responders

Annual event returns Dec. 3 to Hazel Park church

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 20, 2019

HAZEL PARK — Each year in early December, a solemn ceremony is held at St. Justin’s Catholic Church in Hazel Park, remembering the law enforcement officers and firefighters who have died and paying respects to those who still serve.

And during the winter months each year, residents are encouraged to place a blue or red light in their front window to boost the morale of public safety personnel working to keep them safe during the holiday season.

It’s all part of Project Blue Light. Now in its 16th year, this year’s event is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, inside St. Justin’s Catholic Church at 1631 E. Elza Ave. in Hazel Park.

The event will feature vocal and instrumental music, including pipes and drums; prayers and poems; guest speakers; the laying of flowers in a memorial wreath; and more. The family and friends of the fallen will have the opportunity to pay their respects, laying flowers in their loved one’s memory.

The keynote speaker this year is Isaiah McKinnon, a retired police chief for the Detroit Police Department. Among those being highlighted on this year’s Roll Call of Heroes are Officer Scott Larkins, Detroit Police Department, died March 9, 2008; Officer William McCabe, Troy Police Department, died Aug. 12, 2017; senior firefighter Michael Lubig, Detroit Fire Department, died Nov. 12, 2018; and volunteer firefighter Norman Klenow, East Tawas Fire Department, died Aug. 10, 2019.

There will also be respects paid to officers who died in the line of duty on the date of the event, Dec. 3, including Detroit police officer Joseph Soulliere (1970) and Grand Rapids Police Sgt. Stanley Van Tuinen (1966).

“This event is a way for our first responders and the community members who support them to come together and honor, remember and support those who have given their lives in the performance of their duty, and to support the families and loved ones left to carry on following that loss, and those who continue to put on the uniforms, wear the badges and work daily to try and ensure our safety and security,” said Debbie Swofford, the event organizer. “Displaying blue and/or red lights during the holiday season is a way for the community to openly show their appreciation for the men and women who answer the call.”

Local police chiefs said it’s an appreciated gesture indeed.

“As always, this annual event is very beautiful, emotional and meaningful,” said Hazel Park Police Chief Brian Buchholz. “We love having the support of our community in the midst of the increased scrutiny of our profession across the country. It definitely is a boost in morale for us to see this time of the year.”

Madison Heights Police Chief Corey Haines agreed.    

“The display of a blue (or red) light in your home window, or in place of your normal porch light, sends a message to our police officers that you remember those that have fallen in the line of duty, and those that are willing to give that ultimate sacrifice every day for the safety of their communities,” Haines said. “It also signifies our residents’ support for their police officers, and sincerely boosts our officers’ morale during the holiday season when they are away from their own families while serving the community.”