When the winds finally died down, a pile of twisted wood and nails lay where his house once was.
This Collin County Sheriff’s deputy experienced something most never go through once, let alone twice: a tornado took the home he was building for him and his sons in the Dallas tornado outbreak in December 2015, and—determined not to let it beat him—the deputy started right back in, only to have his hours of backbreaking work and years of planning blown away again by another storm just two months later.
Luckily, this deputy wasn’t homeless for long. The community worked to fundraise to help him rebuild the home—and when tragedy struck again, others stepped up to the plate to start over in an even bigger way.
Imagine facing something like this and then having to turn around and help your community deal with what most of us never have to see: abuse, rape, fights, accidents, theft, and even death. These officers put their lives on the line to face the worst in society and protect the most vulnerable—and yet still have to deal with the tragedies and struggles that affect us all as a human race.
Just imagine how it impacts their ability to do their jobs.
Collin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Lawson is doing something about it. Lawson, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, has seen the impact that scrambling to raise money to help his fellow law enforcement personnel can have on the effort to get the affected person what they need in that moment. Having launched and personally overseen a similar successful initiative in his former home state of Minnesota, Lawson helped to spearhead something called The S.H.E.R.I.F.F Fund, or “Sheriff’s, Homefront, Emergency, Relief, Initiative, For, Family” Fund in Collin County, Texas. Its purpose is to raise money and have resources in place for the Collin County law enforcement family before tragedy strikes.
“The S.H.E.R.I.F.F Fund was formed and is operated by the Collin County Sheriff’s Office Personnel with the intent to provide not only financial support for other Collin County Sheriff’s employees but emotional support as well,” said a S.H.E.R.I.F.F Fund spokesperson, “We want to have an immediate response to a crisis and not take on a role of waiting until after a crisis has occurred.”
They continued: “This fund is intended to support everyone employed with the Collin County Sheriff’s Office, from Dispatchers and Detentions Officers, to Warrants/Records Personnel and Deputies. Each employee plays an important role within the Sheriff’s Office; roles that can mean the difference of life and death,”
The idea is that if the Sheriff’s Office is able to instantly take care of its family if and when they need it, they are then, in turn, able to stay focused on taking care of the families of Collin County. “For the community, this means that when that 911 Dispatcher answers your 911 call, they can be focused on your emergency. Similarity, when that Deputy responds to your emergency, you know that you will have their focus as well. This means you are our number one priority during your emergency call for service,” the S.H.E.R.I.F.F Fund spokesperson stressed.
The initiative, which officially launched on Friday, April 28th, 2017, has already seen money come into the fund’s coffers—and they hope to raise north of $150,000 for the Collin County Law Enforcement community in year 1 alone.
We’ll get back to Collin County shortly, but take a detour with me for a moment. I want you to think about something.
As I sit writing this, I’m looking at a pile of items to pack on the kitchen counter. In a few days, I’ll be getting on a plane with my husband and daughter to visit relatives in (coincidentally) Texas—and as I hear the engines roar, rocketing us to 35,000 feet at several hundred miles an hour—I’m not going to be worried. Why? Because I know that the pilots have to be well-rested. Federal law requires them to have had enough rest between flights so that they can focus on the incredibly complex piece of machinery they’re operating (at the potential expense of hundreds of lives). Their undivided attention to operating that plane perfectly means the difference between a long weekend with my family and tragedy.
Law enforcement is no different.
They’re the ones you call when you’re in danger. They’re the ones you call when your life hangs in the balance. They’re the ones who have to make split-second decisions about whether or not someone is, in fact, a threat.
You want that officer to be distracted by the loss of a home while funds are raised to rebuild? By a sick child, while funds are raised to have the life-saving surgery? By a dying relative, they can’t afford to go and visit one last time?
Despite popular belief, they’re humans too—and if there’s a way to keep their distractions at bay to the greatest extent possible, we need to support that effort. Big time.
So how can you help? If you’re in the Collin County area (and even if you’re not!) check out The S.H.E.R.I.F.F Fund’s website (click here!), where you can purchase items like branded t-shirts and polos, or even donate directly to the cause. Be on the lookout on their Facebook page (here!) for upcoming community events like 5K races—and get involved. It’s largely about raising money—yes, but it’s also about reaching out to the community that they serve and sending a message of security and hope. The fund’s motto, “Taking care of our family so we can continue to take care of yours” couldn’t ring truer in a world where law enforcement needs our support more than ever to keep doing the job that so few of us would ever be willing to do.
And if you’re in law enforcement and want to start something like this at your department or precinct, reach out to S.H.E.R.I.F.F Fund leadership and learn how it’s done.
Let me leave you with this thought: over half a century ago, scientist Edward Lorenz made a discovery in his weather pattern models that would forever change the way we think about the universe. Later dubbed “The Butterfly Effect,” Lorenz realized that even the smallest of variances can have a huge impact down the line on the bigger picture.
Be that one smallest of variances—and whether you ultimately ever know it or not, you can change the world.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, M-F, 3-5. ET). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree