Red Caldwell in his home workshop in Brier, where he makes quilts for donation to charity. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Red Caldwell in his home workshop in Brier, where he makes quilts for donation to charity. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Why the former Mukilteo police chief loves Snohomish County

Why I Love It Here is an occasional series in The Herald. Today’s essay is written by Rex Caldwell.

Why I Love It Here is an occasional series in The Daily Herald in which local residents share why Snohomish County is a special place to them.

Today’s essay is written by Rex Caldwell, 60, a retired police officer with 39 years of service. He was police chief for the Mukilteo Police Department from 2011-2015, and then worked for the Criminal Justice Training Commission until 2020. He serves on the boards of Special Olympics Washington, Ronald McDonald House Holiday Cruise and Law Enforcement Torch Run Executive Council. He also is an adjunct professor teaching criminal justice at Shoreline Community College.

I became a police officer nearly 40 years ago, having dedicated my life to community service.

I grew up with family examples of service. My father was a police officer, and I followed him into the profession. My mother helped develop pre-Job Corp programs for at-risk youth in Washington. My sisters live in Everett and are civic-minded, giving to and supporting their chosen causes.

My service “heart-set” began when I was a child. I was a Cub Scout in grade school and joined service clubs and the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in high school. With the help of mentors along the way, I adopted the principle of “Leave things better than you found them.”

Yes, this simple statement sounds like it should be on a bumper sticker, but it has guided me as a police chief, teacher, parent and community leader. It is why, even after retirement, I continue to serve my community.

Over the years, I have volunteered for the Kiwanis Club of Mukilteo, Domes- tic Violence Services of Snohomish County, Backpacks for Kids, Mukilteo Police Foundation, Clothes for Kids in Edmonds, Snohomish County Boys & Girls Clubs and Special Olympics Washington.

Also dear to my heart is the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. Special Olympics provides those with intellectual disabilities the training to become professional athletes, and LETR is there to raise awareness and funds.

Snohomish County police departments have supported this charity for decades with Polar Plunges, Tip-a-Cop and Cops on Donut Shops events. I’ve run the “Flame of Hope” through town, and done the Polar Plunge into a frigid Lake Washington for the cause.

In addition, my wife and I are avid sewers and quilters. I have my own workshop set up in the garage of our Brier home. Deb has her operation set up in the basement. We have made more than 4,000 hats, scarves, purses and quilts, as well as baby bibs, burp cloths and blankets, for charity. When COVID-19 hit, we began sewing masks for those in need. We have donated 500 so far.

Why is this all important to me? I volunteer because giving my time and helping others brings me peace and meaning. I quilt because the act of turning fabric into a unique and useful item is meditative, especially when you know it will go to someone in need.

I invite you to give to a charity of your choice — there are many more community organizations in Snohomish County than I have listed. It doesn’t have to be financial. Give your time, your expertise or in-kind donations.

Giving back to the community is a win-win for everyone involved. From food banks to homeless shelters, dedicated and caring volunteers are finding that the synergy of a few can help improve the lives of many.

That’s why I love it here.

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