Menlo Park residents and downtown visitors are likely to have observed a man regularly wheeling along Santa Cruz Avenue sidewalks, helmet on his head and a hand on the controls of his electric wheelchair. He certainly will have observed them.
That man is Tom Littlewood, who for years has made it his mission to patrol the downtown area, observing the people, businesses and goings-on, on the lookout for anything he finds amiss, and at the ready to contact his friends at the police department if needed.
Up until about two years ago, Littlewood, a former Menlo Park resident who now lives in East Palo Alto, had been a much more frequent downtown visitor. In those days, Littlewood wasn't a police department volunteer "in the traditional sense of the word" because the department didn't have a volunteer program, but in an email several years ago, police Comdr. William Dixon told The Almanac that Littlewood "has been a valued and appreciated member of the Menlo Park Police family for several years."
Dixon added: "His constant presence throughout Menlo Park has provided an extra layer of vigilance that is always on the lookout for the greater Menlo Park community's safety and well-being."
But an injury Littlewood sustained when he fell from his wheelchair slowed him down, and now he is able to get out of bed only one day a week. That's the day when he has enough help from care-providers, who lift him painstakingly from bed and help him into his wheelchair.
Enter Colleen Cooley, a Menlo Park businesswoman who has been a friend of Littlewood's for more than 30 years. She was introduced to him by her husband, Shawn Cooley, when Colleen and Shawn were dating, and Shawn would help Littlewood to bed many nights when both men lived in Menlo Park.
When Littlewood mentioned to his friend that an electric lift would enable him to get out of bed more often, "I knew I had to do what I could to help," Colleen Cooley told The Almanac. "Tom's amazing spirit and desire to serve his community is apparent to anyone who knows him. No human being should be confined to a bed."
So Cooley set up her first-ever Go Fund Me page, and launched a successful effort that raised the $2,000 needed for the electric lift in about three weeks. She said over the weekend that she will be ordering the lift this week to help her friend regain some of his mobility and return more often to his downtown patrol beat.
"I couldn't be more pleased," Cooley said of the generosity shown toward Littlewood by Go Fund Me donors.
"If anyone feels inclined, Tom can always use any extra assistance available," she added. "He lives on a very limited income. Although he doesn't complain, I know anything extra that comes his way is always appreciated and goes to good use."
To access the page, go to gofundme.com and enter Tom Littlewood in the search field.