Officer helps single mother struggling during COVID-19 pandemic pay for grocery haul

BOSTON — After witnessing a single mother crying outside a grocery store, a Boston Police officer stepped up and showed how seriously he took the oath of protecting and serving the community.

Officer Ben Peguero is normally stationed in the Back Bay/South End area. On Tuesday night, he had just finished a detail shift when he found 37-year-old and mom of three girls Jennifer Velazquez crying on the sidewalk.

“I heard a woman sitting by the curbside crying,” said Peguero. “She was checking out by the cashier with her groceries [when] her EBT card was declined. There weren’t enough funds.”

Velazquez, who lives paycheck to paycheck, is an essential worker at the airport and has to put her life on the line by being exposed to COVID-19 in order to provide for her family.

“My job is my only source of income,” said Velazquez. “One of my biggest concerns was [my kids] don’t have enough to eat when I’m not there.”

She had been loading up on groceries at the Star Market at the Prudential Center, thinking the coronavirus pandemic stimulus check would've already been added to her bank account by now, but it wasn't.

“I’m at the checkout line, and my card isn’t going through,” said Velazquez. “All I could do at this point is sit outside and cry. This gentleman comes along asked if I was ok. I see a Boston police uniform, [and] I’m thinking I’m in trouble. I’m crying and coughing."

But Peguero did exactly the opposite.

“I felt bad for her, and I told her, ‘Come in with me. We will go in and grab some things,’" said Peguero. “When I approached the cashier, I could see cereal and items kids like to eat.”

Thanks to Peguero, the kids now have $200 worth of food and will stay well-fed during the quarantine.

“She got so excited and asked for a hug, [but] with everything going around this time, I was like, hesitant,” said Peguero.

“I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, I know I can’t touch you, but can I touch you? I want to hug and squeeze you so bad,’” said Velazquez.

She is now trying to pay it forward by making dinner for three other people who cannot afford to eat right now. Velazquez says she’s hoping she can come up with an idea to repay Officer Peguero’s good deed.

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