Twice a week for 20 years, Ginger Ceja walked from her apartment to La Habra Police Department to file paperwork and put smiles on officers’ faces with her hugs.
But on March 3rd, just a few weeks before Covid-19 erupted in California and social distancing became a new way of life, the 91-year-old volunteer filed her last folder and gave out her last round of hugs at the La Habra PD.
“I’m going to miss everyone,” said Ginger, who was moving to the Bay Area just a few blocks away from her daughter. “The Police Department got me a chocolate cake and flowers. I was surprised, because I didn’t think anyone knew me. But, everyone seems to know my name. I must’ve had a reputation.”
Ceja certainly did have a reputation as one of the sweetest volunteers the PD had seen, according to Records Supervisor Janine Gordon.
“Whenever I saw her, she would come down the hallway with her walker and ask police officers for her hug,” said Community Services Officer Ken Gustin. “No one could say no to her.”
Ginger, a grandmother to 11 grandkids and 2 great grandkids, first started working for the PD, when she was a youthful 71-year-old who loved to keep herself busy with friends, church, reading mysteries, watching women’s gymnastics and volunteering.
Ceja worked a few days a week at the La Habra Used Bookstore and then found an open position at the La Habra PD.
She started out working on Saturday afternoons filing for the Records Department and then added Monday’s to her rotation for Animal Control.
“Everyone was always just so nice to me,” Ceja said. “I’m going to miss coming in and seeing everyone.”
Staff would see her rambling around the Department in her souped up walker that came with a horn, a headlight, flower garland and a ceramic frog that was part of her collection from home.
“She’s just such a sweetheart,” said Dennis Coyle, who worked in Animal Control with Ginger. “I mean, what an incredible attitude to have. She’s always so nice and just wants hugs. She’s old school.”