He's no stranger to the Canton community.
In fact, children often run in his direction to give him a high five or simply say “hello.”
“I like to help people.”
Canton police officer Lamar Sharpe has been focused on community policing in the city for the past two years. WKYC first met Sharpe on Dec. 23, 2016 when he spent the day before Christmas Eve handing out gifts to deserving families.
Exactly one year later, Sharpe was out in full force once again. This time was a little different as he held onto a deeper connection to the community he calls home.
“Sometimes you don't know where Christmas is going to come from,” Sharpe said. “What we would try to do is to help families.”
Sharpe, joined by his wife Diedra Sharpe and a group of volunteers, surprised families in a Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) trolley. The trolley was escorted through the neighborhoods by a Canton police cruiser, driven by officer Tim Marks who was sure to activate the police sirens just as they approached each scheduled stop.
“Generally, when you hear sirens, it means trouble,” Sharpe said. “But guess what, we turn the sirens on because the big guy, Santa, is coming in.”
With Santa aboard the trolley, hundreds of gifts were given out to families, beginning with the family of Lisa West.
“I had a little bit of a rough year,” West said, fighting back tears. “This is just a very nice.”
Sharpe's focus is on building a stronger relationship between law enforcement and the community.
“We're so divided right now and it just really bothers me,” Sharpe said. “That's why when I come into a room, I'm coming to own it. I'm going to make you laugh.”
Sharpe has become a well-known figure in the community, named person of the year in Stark County's About magazine. He has gained thousands of followers on social media while documenting his "community policing" journey.
Sharpe has started the Be a Better Me Foundation to help mentor kids in the area, encouraging them to stay out of trouble and to simply follow their dreams. His future goals include finding a building to house his foundation.
Click here to learn more about Sharpe's Be a Better Me Foundation.