Ohio fire, police rally around struggling family

Dayton first responders worked together to fix a family's home, stock the pantry with food, and get clothes for the kids


Josh Sweigart
Dayton Daily News, Ohio

DAYTON, Ohio — When Dayton police Officer Jeremy Campbell responded to a call on North Garland Avenue in August, he had no idea the positive impact he and other officers and firefighters would have on an east Dayton family.

"They helped us pretty much have a new way of life," said the mother, Ashley Ambrose. "Pretty much they gave us everything we needed to help us help the kids, to show, I guess, the kids that there's people to help them too."

The family — Ambrose, her husband; stepdaughter, 11; and son, 3 — moved to Dayton from Spring Valley in June to be closer to his job. But they were off to a rocky start after the move. The rental house was in disrepair. The children needed new clothes.

"They had very little food in their refrigerator. The parents were sleeping on the floor, and they had no dishes, couch, bed, or pillows for themselves or the children," wrote Dayton Police Lt. William Keller in nominating the officers to be recognized for their efforts.

When Campbell arrived at the North Garland house, he found it dirty — but he said he recognized poverty, not neglect.

Campbell said he has a son about the same age as the 11-year-old girl.

"I kind of felt for them," he said. "Just talking to this little girl, she kind of just made me want to make these little kids' lives good because I could."

He told them they needed to clean up the house, and came back a week later to make sure they did. He contacted fellow officer Lyn Dunkin and his wife, Dayton Fire Department EMT Amy Dunkin, who worked with God's Grace Food Pantry to get food that Campbell personally delivered to the house.

The freezer went out the next day.

After Amy Dunkin reached out on social media for help, Dayton Police Officer Joe Pence Jr. donated a working refrigerator. Officer Jason Olsen donated kids clothing and bedding for the boy. Officer Casey Staples donated furniture. Sgt. Danielle Cash and Officer Joseph Watson donated bedding for the daughter.

Amy Dunkin used hundreds of dollars in donations from across the departments to get the kids new clothes.

"I think that when we came in to do these jobs, we came into it saying we wanted to help people, so when we have things like this that happen, that can make a difference in someone's life, those are things that kind of keep you going," she said.

A group of police officers adopted the family through the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police's annual Angel Tree Christmas charity and will provide them food and gifts.

Officers continue working with the landlord to make improvements to the house, such as installing smoke detectors. The house still has plywood covering downstairs windows and glass panes missing upstairs.

Campbell routinely checks in with the family and has volunteers lined up to help.

"Being a a police officer, you have to be versatile, you have to be able to adapt to whatever you're about to go into, and when I pulled that call, I did not think that would lead to this in any way," Campbell said.

Acts of charity like this go unrecognized all the time, Keller said. He knows of an officer who for years carried stacks of McDonald's gift certificates and gave them out when he thought someone looked hungry. The officer never bragged about it.

"I am sure it happens a lot," Keller said.

The assistance from the officers changed how she and her husband view the police.

"They made it easier for me and my husband, so we don't have to decide between helping the kids and paying the bills," she said.

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(c)2020 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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