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Christmas Caserole

Two meals, two trees, two celebrations. That's how Janet Patrick has spent the Christmas the last two years. She splits her time between a celebration at home with her family and the other at the West Springfield District Station, making the holiday a little nicer for police officers on duty that night.

On Wednesday, Dec. 17, Patrick broke out the ornaments and decorated the station tree with fellow members of the West Springfield Citizen's Advisory Committee Rebecca Montalto, Bonnie Dickens and Penny Wilkinson. They went down the menu thus far for that year's dinner on Christmas night. They had two turkey breasts, two spiral hams, casseroles, vegetables and a dessert. Patrick coordinates everything, but everyone on the committee pitches in by contributing the food.

"It's a good feeling to be able to give back on some level," Patrick said. "I just sent the e-mail out, we'll be all right I think."

Thanksgiving was the same way, and Patrick is trying to extend it to Easter and July 4th. She remembered how it all came together in November. Montalto brought in the corn casserole and Patrick made a sweet potato casserole but that was just the start. They ended up breaking out two tables in the roll call room at the station.

"We were able to serve all three shifts of officers that night," Patrick said. "It's kind of hard for them to work an eight-hour shift and leave their families."

Officer Rex Pagerie wasn't on duty that holiday, but he did dig into the leftovers.

"I did have leftovers, I had the corn casserole for two days," he said.

The West Springfield Citizen's Advisory Committee is made up of about 20-30 people, and Patrick is the chairman. It's purpose is to provide a forum so that citizens can see what the officers' job is like and open lines of communications if needed. The program was founded in 1979 and each station has a Citizen's Advisory Committee. The West Springfield group meets once a month from September to June.

"We arrange presentations each month," Patrick said. "It's interesting to find out what they do."

Fairfax County Police Chief Tom Manger appreciated the work of the Citizens Advisory Committees. He praised Patrick's efforts.

"Janet has just done so many wonderful things for us," Manger said.

The advisory committee has had presentations on the canine unit, the helicopter unit and the SWAT team. Committee members also visited the police academy in Chantilly.

Two representatives from each committee attend the citizens advisory council which is a more formal program for police interaction. Patrick is one of the representatives from West Springfield along with Bill Uehling.

Patrick's passion to help out around the station and community stems from her experience as a Washington Redskins cheerleader in the 1980s. Patrick's husband, Mike Patrick, is a sports announcer for ESPN. He appears alongside Joe Theismann and Paul McGuire every weekend. They both live in Burke.

"I've always felt I need something to cheer for, and now it's the police department," she said.