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By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Have you ever heard of the Citrus Heights Police Foundation? The relatively new nonprofit organization was officially founded last year and is headed up by Police Lt. Mike Wells, who serves as president.
“Our primary goal is to foster community-wide support for law enforcement, provide supplemental resources for officers and their families during times of tragedy while building long lasting and positive officer-community relationships,” Wells told The Sentinel in a recent interview.
As a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, donations are tax deductible, and so far Wells said the foundation has raised approximately $21,000 and received donations from various local businesses and community members.
In all, there are nine members on the Board of Directors which includes members of the Citrus Heights Police Department as well as community members and local business owners.
“With the money raised, the Foundation has provided meal delivery services to officers and their families during times of need,” Wells said.
The Citrus Heights Women’s Club has also been a substantial donor to the Citrus Heights Police Foundation.
A significant portion from the proceeds of “A Taste of Citrus Heights,” held at the Citrus Heights Community Center, has been contributed to the police foundation. The donation is used to host an annual police department “wellness” day and cover the cost of a visiting guest speaker.
“The guest speaker generally covers issues law enforcement professionals deal with on a daily basis: responding to gruesome vehicle collisions, baby or infant deaths, suicides and homicide scenes,” Wells said, noting the foundation has hosted two “wellness” days to date.
The first day featured a presentation by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, a behavioral scientist who specializes in issues related to law enforcement. His presentation focused on preventative strategies to reduce the negative emotional impact of a law enforcement career.
“There are many types of calls which greatly affect members of law enforcement and can often impact their personal lives,” Wells said. “Because of that, we also invite spouses, significant others and family members to attend these ‘wellness’ days so they can better understand how these types of calls can change the behavior of their loved ones who work in law enforcement.”
A second wellness day presentation to CHPD officers and employees was led by Officer Julie Werhnyak, a 16-year veteran of the Tempe, Arizona police department. During the course of her investigation of a domestic violence radio call, Werhnyak was ambushed and stabbed in the neck with a large hunting knife by a suspect who had his girlfriend held captive in their home for days. All the while the girlfriend was in the apartment she was being tortured by the suspect.
Officer Werhnyak told her personal story of courage and survival to CHPD officers describing how her prior mental, physical and tactical training prepared her to survive this lethal encounter.
“Members of law enforcement, including our dispatchers often encounter a significant amount of physical and emotional damage throughout their careers,” Wells told The Sentinel. “They selflessly risk their lives and emotional well-being to protect our community.”
Wells said one of the Police Foundation’s current goals is to raise funds for the purchase of a memorial bench at San Juan High School for Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Stasyuk, who was killed in the line of duty last year. Stasyuk was a San Juan alumni.
“Our foundation lives by the phrase, ‘The Foundation that backs the badge,'”said Wells. “We want to ensure that we back up all our law enforcement members and their families whenever they need it.”
Those interested in contributing to the Citrus Heights Police Foundation are asked to contact Lt. Mike Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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