ROCKFORD — As it turns out, there is such as thing as a free lunch, at least for first responders in the area.


Officers with the Rockford Police Department assembled in the gymnasium of the District 2 headquarters on Broadway on Wednesday where they were presented with gift cards from local restaurants as a show of gratitude for the work they’re doing during the coronavirus pandemic.


Gift cards are also being distributed to Rockford firefighters and to first responders in Winnebago County, Rockton, Roscoe and South Beloit, Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea said.


“It’s a huge outpouring, $10 per card,” O’Shea said. “That’s a lot of money for a lot of first responders.”


The donations are courtesy of the Jaimie Cox Foundation and the law enforcement support group known as Blue 815, which were both established after Cox, a Rockford police officer, was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 5, 2017.


“For us and my family, the idea is just to keep as much good associated with Jaimie’s name as we can,” said Adam Cox, a Rockford police officer and Jaimie Cox’s cousin. “We can help these small businesses and these restaurants while helping first responders and just letting people in the community know that Jaimie might not be here but he’s still offering his support and doing good for everybody.”


Two other local organizations contributed to the gift card purchases: the Greg Lindmark Foundation, established in memory of the retired Rockford police detective who took his own life in 2015, and the Amanda Reed Foundation, honoring the memory of the 27-year-old Loves Park woman who was killed by her then-boyfriend in 2009.


The foundations collaborated to purchase about $9,000 worth of gift cards from area restaurants to be distributed to police officers, firefighters and other first responders. Some gift cards were donated by businesses.


Cox’s widow, Caitlin, said she was honored to be part of the fundraising effort.


“When everything happened with Jaimie, the community really came together to support our family and to honor him,” she said. “This, for me, is a way to give back and to do something that he would be proud of and just to give back to the community during a time of need.”


Ken DeCoster: kdecoster@rrstar.com; @DeCosterKen