CANTON, Ohio — If you're looking for Canton Police Officer Lamar Sharpe, you'll probably find him in this exact scenario: He's on the street talking to kids and community members who have recognized him.
You see, he's a big deal. The man has a larger-than-life picture of himself on the side of a building.
"I get a lot of handshakes. I get a lot of smiles. I get a lot of people looking at me like, 'I know this guys from somewhere,'" Officer Sharpe said.
But if you know anything about him, he's not in it for the praise.
"The things I do here, I don’t do it for any accolades," he said.
It doesn't matter, though. Because, this officer gets it anyway. He's the founder of the "Be A Better Me Foundation." It's been so impactful, that reality TV came calling last year, sprucing up a brand new space for the goodness to spread.
"This is basically about empowering our youth, because our youth are the future," Sharpe said.
The non-profit mentors boys ages 10 to 16. It offers tutoring, and peer counseling, helping to strengthen the bond between the young and grown.
"We are here giving back. We want to make sure our kids are successful," Sharpe told us.
Sharpe says he feels elated every time he sees Be A Better Me packed with boys destined for greater things.
"When I walk in here, or when I look on the cameras and see a room full of kids, that’s the best feeling in the world, because I know these kids need help, and I know they’re getting it," Sharpe said.
And his method? It's working.
"Just one of the parents coming back and saying, ‘Hey, my son passed the fourth grade because of your tutoring program," Sharpe said. "That just moved me…I know we’re doing it for the right reasons."
The right reasons, and on the right track. Sharpe's message of youth empowerment is contagious, and it's also changing perceptions.
"Before, when I walked down the street wearing this uniform, and people would be like … or they’d be afraid of you. But now? It’s just like, I get smiles … and I love that. It’s the best feeling ever," Sharpe said.
Canton is home to Be A Better Me, and Sharpe says, he's here to stay.
"I hope we never ever leave here. This is our community, and the only way to get better is if we all work together.”
For more on the Be A Better Me Foundation, click HERE.