FOUNTAIN, Colo. — Hugs and high fives. That's how the students at Jordahl Elementary School in Fountain greet "Officer Don" Klinge when they see him. Whether they're grabbing a piece of candy from his office, or stopping to say "hi" as he walks through the hallways, it's clear Fountain Police Corporal Don Klinge is very loved.
"Having them smile and jumping around and want to hug me really makes my job easier," Klinge said.
Klinge knows his job as a school resource officer is to keep everyone safe, but he believes just as important is creating connections with the children he has sworn to protect.
"My first conversation with the children should not be when I’m putting handcuffs on them, Klinge said. "(If so) we missed the mark."
Those connections often happen in his office at the school.
"I have an extra pair of shoes for kids that forget or are having an accident," Klinge said. "I have clothes for them."
His office is filled with food, toys, and clothing, all things to help him through any obstacle that comes his way.
"When I have a little boy that comes in and he smells like marijuana because mom and dad smoke every day, I buy clothes for him, I change him out," said Klinge. "I wash his clothes. I dry them. I put him back in clothes and then send him home."
Klinge's wife, Leisa, goes by "Mrs. Officer Don." She says their family is happy to purchase clothing and food for any student in need.
"When he says, 'I need a pair of shoes for a kid whose toes are sticking out' we just don’t we don’t even think about the money," said Klinge. "We feel like we were blessed to bless others and that’s just what we do."
Leisa supports her husband's determination to be the one families call first.
"In the summertime, a dad will come and say, 'My son’s not behaving right' and Don will get in the car and drive down there and get face-to-face and have a conversation and help them, help the family be a better family," Klinge said.
"Don is a cut above the rest," said Fountain Police Chief Mark Cristiani. "You can’t go anywhere in the school district and not talk about Officer Don."
Cristiani describes Klinge as an amazing man at the peak of his career.
"We see a lot of negativity just by the nature of the job, but then you come into the school and all these youngsters are happy and they’re high-fiving you," said Cristiani as he holds a small gift from one student. "A little girl gave me a little butterfly on the way out the door. How do you top that?"
Jordahl's principal, Kary Davis, says Klinge is always willing to help her with any request she makes and says he never says "no" to what she asks of him. That includes agreeing to get duct-taped to a wall to help raise money for the school. See Officer Don taped to the wall here.
"The ability to love kids, it shows through every single day when we see him here," Davis said.
That love and commitment to taking care of children and their families both in and out of school is why Corporal Don Klinge was chosen as the News 5 Jefferson Award winner.
"It truly is great to be a school resource officer and being able to have an impact," he said.
In his spare time, Klinge also runs a charity called Blue Santa where he collects Christmas gifts for families in need in his school district. This year he's helping 350 families with support from the American Legion Post 38 in Fountain, the VFW in Fountain, and community members.
Klinge has also been recognized as "Officer of the Year" by the Colorado American Legion and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Jefferson Awards were started more than 50 years ago in part with the help of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. If you know someone worthy of the News 5 Jefferson Award we want to hear about it.
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