#WhyWeServe and Its Impact
Why We Serve: The Impact of Local Heroes
Each year, Aftermath Services conducts the annual Why We Serve grant. It raises awareness and provides funding to local causes that are near and dear to the hearts of law enforcement officers and first responders nationwide. Here’s how it works: officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, etc. can self apply or they can be nominated by community members. The application consists of a freeform essay or a 3-minute video about the cause, charity, or community organization these local heroes have made an impact on. Aftermath chooses the finalists and communities across the country vote for the grant winners.
Meet some of the past Why We Serve grant winners and see how they helped their communities.
Why We Serve 2018
Winner: Ofc. Chris Shelly
Community: East Stroudsburg, PA
Charity: Olsen Christmas Wish
How the Grant Helped: After losing officer Jeffrey Olsen to suicide 12 years ago, Chris Shelly and his fellow officers started fundraising to help put Olsen’s two sons through college. During this process, their efforts became much more — they discovered just how many people in their community are also struggling. This sparked an idea: after surpassing their original fundraising goal, they switched gears and use the additional money to give back to the community during Christmas, a time when so many families struggle.
During their first year, the Olsen Christmas Wish held a community party to celebrate Officer Olsen and raised funds to assist a local child whose life had been impacted by the drug epidemic. This happened over 6 years ago and today, the Olsen Christmas Wish continues to grow. In 2017, they were able to help 41 underprivileged children. The organization now commemorates other fallen officers as well, paying tribute to them by continuing to care for the communities these officers devoted their lives to. Officer Shelly used the $5,000 grant from Aftermath to continuing this mission. The grant even had a ripple effect, drawing attention from local media and businesses. Several area businesses were so inspired that they matched the Aftermath Why We Serve grant, bringing the group’s campaign total to $15,000!
To get involved or find more information about their efforts, visit their Facebook page here.
1st Runner-Up: Officer Phillip Ritchey and K9 Raider
Community: Alpharetta, GA
Charity: Community K9 team
How the Grant Helped: K9 Raider and Alpha (Officer Phillip Ritchey) have been serving the Alpharetta community for two years. Raider is a part of the Public Safety K9 Unit of Alpharetta. With her minute stature and irresistible adorableness, she is a staple in the community, helping everyone from the young to the old and everyone in between. Aftermath is honored to support her mission in changing perceptions of law enforcement one head scratch at a time.
As with the Olsen Christmas Wish, the Aftermath Why We Serve grant had a ripple effect through the Alpharetta community. Raider’s story and participation in the grant drew attention from local media and businesses; these businesses stepped up to match the Aftermath grant, increasing the total grant awarded to $6,000! Thank you to KICKS 101.5 FM, Cadillac Jack, and Van Sant Law! Furthermore, Raider decided to share the award with an equally fantastic organization – iCanBike Alpharetta, headed by Officer. Amanda Clay. Each year, iCan Bike Alpharetta puts on a camp for 40 kids with disabilities and teaches them to ride two-wheel bikes, giving them a chance to experience a thrill that all kids deserve to experience.
Why We Serve 2017
Winner: Lt. Andy Wilburn
Community: Radford City, VA
Charity: Help Save the Next Girl
How the Grant Helped: Help Save the Next Girl was formed following the 2009 abduction and murder of Morgan Dana Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student. The organization’s primary focus is to spread safety information and prevent future crimes against young men and women by promoting vigilance, communication, support, and personal awareness. A large part of the challenge for the organization has been connecting with their target audience on a platform that they already use, such as Instagram or Snapchat. With the Aftermath Why We Serve Grant, Lt. Wilburn hopes to partner with local media agencies to create interesting and informative videos or snippets that can be readily shared across different social media channels. Further, he has used the funds to create pledge cards, offer personal safety training, and hold self-defense classes. “I want to build as much awareness as possible to give us the opportunity to share our message. Normally we wouldn’t be able to create these things, but the grant from Aftermath will help us do so.”
1st Runner-Up: Officer Scott Marks
Community: Minnetonka, MN
Charity: Self-started mental health for the community and for officers.
How the Grant Helped: “We found that crisis calls have been up 314% over the last 12 years,” Officer Marks said, “I would like to develop an after care program to provide visits after a crisis call to evaluate and help people dealing with mental health issues. It is important to simply build a relationship with a person in this situation in order to provide them with the care they need.”
“The second part of the program is the Officer Wellness Program where we would have a culturally competent therapist helping law enforcement directly. Not only would this enable them to better help others, but it would provide much needed care in a sector that is often underserved. If we find that this is an effective program and is really helping those in need, we would like to push it out to other departments so they can use it to help people in their communities as well.”
Read more about the program here.