Every hour of every day, the Darien police are charged with serving and protecting the town. But for six hours June 12, a handful of them only aimed to serve patrons at the annual Tip-A-Cop fundraiser at Darien Social.

The task for Chief Duane Lovello and Capt. Don Anderson, Sgt. Jeremiah Marron and Det. Mark Cappelli was to wait by the kitchen window to grab plates of food and bring them to diners.

Nine officers worked throughout the evening, including Joe Licari, Bryan Wallman, Andy Mastroianni, Jim Martin and Chris Jimenez.

Patrons were asked to tip the officers the same as any other server for the evening, and all proceeds went directly to the Connecticut Special Olympics. By 7:45 p.m., $600 had been donated to the organization. The total amount raised for the evening was $1,676.

"We love our people in blue," said Joan Gildea, Darien EMS-Post 53 adult adviser and CPR director, who attends Tip-A-Cop every year. "They're our first-responders. We want to support them since they support us."

Gildea sat at a table with five other women from Post 53 who spoke about interacting with the officers in a social setting. Police officers wore gray polo shirts with the Tip-A-Cop logo.

"They always have our back at a call," said Claudia Newton, Darien EMS-Post 53 emergency medical technician, as Lovello delivered a Cobb salad to her and a burger and fries to Gildea.

"The end goal, though, is to support Special Olympics," Gildea said.

This is the second year Darien Social hosted the fundraising event.

"We think it's an honorable event for a great cause," manager Brendan Fee said. "We definitely want to support the town in any way that we can."

The Darien Police Department participated in four Special Olympics events before the start of the games the weekend of June 6 in New Haven. On that first day, several officers, along with some from New Canaan, did the Law Enforcement Torch Run from the Stamford line along the Post Road until they passed the torch at the Norwalk border.

Lovello participated in the medal ceremonies at the games in New Haven and Lt. John Lawlor and Anderson awarded medals at the Darien YMCA to the local Special Olympians.

While Tip-A-Cop's ultimate goal is to support the Special Olympics, officers also benefit from the evening.

Licari, who spearheaded the fundraiser, said that while it can be challenging to have police officers volunteer their evenings off, the department has received tremendous feedback from the community, which asks when Tip-A-Cop will be each year. The event, he said, allows for barriers to be broken between the officers and the community.

"We're coming to your table and we're not in uniform," Licari said. "Some people feel uncomfortable talking to a police officer in uniform. When we're coming to your table and we're serving your food, it opens up doors for everyone."

Licari was working behind the bar throughout the evening.

"In the end, the money that comes in goes to a great program for Special Olympics," Licari said.

Special Olympians are participating in the national games in New Jersey through June 21.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews