"I love you. Take care. Don't forget to duck."
This is Pam Thomas' tag line on the cards and packets she sends Richmond County Sheriff's officers. A substitute teacher most of the time, Ms. Thomas is a fervent supporter of the police, who often get written off as lazy doughnut-eaters, she said.
So she and her roommate, Terry Hiett, bake cakes on holidays and bring them to the substations, send cards to injured deputies and pray for members of the sheriff's office several times a day.
"Somebody had to do something; why not us?" she simply said.
The small gestures started two years ago when Ms. Thomas became fed up with negative opinions swirling around about law enforcement officers.
She said even though she had called in half a dozen raves about them to the Rants and Raves line at The Augusta Chronicle, only rants were being printed.
Plus, when Ms. Thomas phoned some of the higher-ranking authorities in the sheriff's office to praise a few extraordinary deputies, she again was rebuffed.
It just added fuel to the fire when she opened up the newspaper and read that a favorite deputy of hers, Jason Singletary, had been shot.
"I said to myself 'I know him' ... I resent that," Ms. Thomas said. "Cops are people, too, but no one remembers that."
While working at a south Augusta convenience store, Mr. Hiett said he's come to know and appreciate many deputies, which has caused him, too, to become angered that they're sorely unrecognized for their work.
The best friends' response was to offer up their thanks in sugary sweetness, because it seemed like a simple way to do something positive without drawing too much attention to themselves.
They came up with the idea around Ms. Thomas' birthday, so they brought cake to the north and south substations, jump-starting what has since become a tradition.
The cakes, 15 combined to make large sheet varieties, take 15 hours to complete, mainly because the roommates do not have a working oven and must bake them individually in a roaster.
Although certainly a challenge, Mr. Hiett says the time-consuming process is "well-worth the effort."
In addition to the cakes and personalized notes, Ms. Thomas also made her own rosary, called a chaplet, dedicated to law enforcement that the enthusiastic Roman Catholic says she puts to use two or three times a day.
Mr. Hiett, who considers himself a Mormon, also prays, only without the rosary.
What it all comes down to, they explained, is showing officers that someone does appreciate them, even if many residents don't.
Some cakes made during the years even play off this gripe.
Last month one cake inscription stated: "The waves of humanity thank you and so do we," a blatant attempt at irony, Ms. Thomas said.
And one of the many signs usually displayed in the vicinity of the cakes reflects Ms. Thomas' wacky sense of humor: "In a world of garter belts, I'm a girdle, always there to support you."
Why do the two have such affection for the law enforcement profession?
"They must be willing to get shot at every day," Ms. Thomas says, without hesitation.
And as challenging as substitute teaching is, one's life generally is not in danger upon stepping in front of a chalkboard or reading a Shakespeare passage.
The Augusta woman also has another source for her bond with officers - her grandfather, who worked in law enforcement for 33 years as a police captain in Philadelphia.
He believed that if someone sees wrongdoing, that person needs to do something about it - or just shut up.
The philosophy is a value she's picked up from her now deceased grandfather, along with his sassy attitude.
Ms. Thomas' spunk is never more apparent than when she's actually handing off the cakes she's spent hours creating.
Like the postal worker's credo, "Through rain, sleet or snow," she'll show up no matter the weather.
Last month, she sloshed in, nearly tripping on wet sandals, to get the cake to the substations.
While at the Daniel Field substation, a young deputy unfamiliar with Ms. Thomas looked puzzled when she came in loaded with goodies.
"Honey, how long have you been here?" Ms. Thomas asked.
His initial response: "15 minutes" and then the truth, "four years."
"Well, I've been doing this for two years. I'm the cake lady," she said, as if he should know this like the back of his hand. "It was my birthday, so you get cake. For Christmas, you're getting hair."
"Oh yeah?" the bald deputy questioned smiling.
"I didn't say it would be on top of your head though," she zinged back.
Mr. Hiett, too, shares Ms. Thomas' style of humor, only he's more in the background, having only delivered the cakes once.
"They started calling me the cake man behind the cake lady," he said. "If we could figure out a way to mail them, we would."
Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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