By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
In the past, when a member of the Isle of Palms law enforcement family needed a financial helping hand, Police Department employees simply passed the hat, collecting as much money as they could and providing as much help as they could afford. “We all just pitched in a little bit of money and did the best we could with what we had,” Police Chief Kevin Cornett explained. That’s no longer the case, thanks to the Law Enforcement Neighborhood Support program, a partnership between the IOP Exchange Club and the city’s Police Department. In addition to helping out in hardship situations for public safety employees and other IOP residents, the program is raising funds that will pay for recognition awards, event sponsorship and community support. With volunteers donating their time and money, every dollar raised will go to a worthy cause, according to Ted Kinghorn, a former IOP councilman who, along with fellow Exchange Club members Tony Jones and Carol Truslow, will serve on the committee charged with approving requests for funds.
“There will be no T-shirts, no hats and no overhead. There’s not a lot of bureaucracy,” Kinghorn explained. In its first two weeks, the LENS program took in $25,000 in donations from local residents, the initial contribution coming from George Reeth, who helped set up a similar program in Charleston. Kinghorn said his goal is to raise $50,000 and, thinking long-term, possibly establish an endowment, where financial help for local residents would be funded with the interest earned by the funds. “I think anybody would appreciate that having a strong, community-supported Police Department is very important for our livelihoods, for our lives, for raising our children in this community. So we think it’s very worthwhile to support our police,” Reeth commented. By Christmas, the LENS program had 20 founding members who contributed at least $500.
“It’s a good thing for the residents to help support our public safety personnel,” incoming IOP Mayor Phillip Pounds commented. “With all the defund the police programs going on around the country, it’s a nice way to show support.” “This is going to be great to help the police department’s morale and provide some things that don’t have to come out of our budget,” Cornett added. “We’ve had incidents where officers had a loss in the family or sickness. It will also help with our awards program for our officers.” In addition to donations, Kinghorn said the LENS program would concentrate on raising funds at least twice a year: during National Police Week in May and on Giving Tuesday, five days after Thanksgiving. He said other events might be planned as well.
Kinghorn pointed out that the LENS program is designed to be “the place of last resort.”
He explained: “For example, if a person is in an accident and needs a wheelchair and insurance doesn’t cover it. We want to work with other resources, such as civic organizations and other nonprofits. Say the person got $250 from the Kiwanis Club. We would match that. We want to make sure the money goes as far as it can.”
The LENS Advisory Board includes: Jean Blackwell, retired CEO of the Cummins Foundation; Jeff Burda of the Boulevard Company; Al Cannon, retired Charleston County sheriff; Dick Cronin, former Isle of Palms mayor; Dimi Matouchev of Edward Jones; George Reeth of the Reeth Family Foundation; and Kitty Riley of the Kitty Foundation