For children at the Reichert House, discipline and routine are what their teachers aim to instill in them daily.
But on Tuesday at noon, the children broke out of their routine when they were met with some new faces.
Nine recently hired Gainesville Police Department officers visited the Reichert House, located at 1704 SE Second Ave., and served them lunch.
Reichert House is an after-school program for at-risk boys and is co-founded by GPD Chief of Police Tony Jones.
The house was opened in 1978, according to their website. It serves youth between 11 and 19 years old.
On Tuesday, each age group — elementary, middle and high school — walked into the cafeteria in a single-file line, 128 children in total.
After receiving their meal, the children stood in front of each seat at the table until they were instructed to sit, and they didn’t touch their food until they were told to eat.
“Sir, yes, sir,” was their response anytime an adult spoke to them.
A police officer’s job is to serve and protect, said Gainesville Police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias.
In the police academy, you learn a lot about protecting, Tobias said.
This is reinforcing that service aspect.
The program is run in a para-military fashion, which is meant to provide structure for the students.
A lot of the children who come to the Reichert House don’t have a solid father figure in their lives, Tobias said.
Without this intervention, these children would not get the same structure at their homes, he added.
During the summer, the Reichert House provides the children with lunch every day of the week.
Tuesday’s lunch consisted of pizza, peanut butter crackers, apple sauce, cartons of milk and a mini cupcake served on a Styrofoam tray.
“The program is a great asset to the community,” said Officer John Nordman, one of the newly hired police officers who came out on Tuesday.
About three weeks ago, one of the Reichert House kitchen staff members passed away.
Since then, the program has been short of staff.
Jones spearheaded this effort to help relieve the staff shortage and to get the other officers involved, Tobias said.
Jones is a community-oriented leader, said Robert Shrigley, one of the officers who served the kids lunch.
“He wanted us to follow his lead,” he said.
[A version of this story ran on page 3 on 7/16/15]
[FILE PHOTO] John Nordman, right, hands 8-year-old Micah Reed a chocolate milk at the Reichert House on Tuesday. Nine newly hired police officers served 128 students lunch.