SPD getting hairy for a good cause
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA — The Police Department is growing by a hair. A lot of hair, that is.

Officers are taking part in the department’s first-ever “Facial Hair Fundraiser,” with the money raised going toward Project Lifesaver, a newly-implemented program that provides life-saving response for people prone to wander because of Alzheimer’s, autism and other cognitive disabilities.

“This (Project Lifesaver) initiative is a great thing for the Sylacauga community, and the Police Department is behind it in every way,” Police Chief Chris Carden said. “Police officers are always asking about growing beards, goatees, et cetera. This is a fun way for us to donate a little money and allow the employee’s to have some fun along the way.”

The only facial hair officers are typically allowed to have is a mustache, as long as it does not extend past the corners of the mouth. From February through March, however, SPD’s facial hair policy will be waived, allowing those who donate to express themselves through a beard, goatee, sideburns or any other look they can grow in two month’s time.

Participating officers are asked to donate a minimum of $10 to purchase a “shaving permit,” although they have (jokingly) been warned that if they begin to scare children with their unkempt facial hair, the permit can be revoked. The department plans to give out some “best beard” awards at its annual banquet as well.

Though fun for officers, the fundraiser supports a serious cause. Project Lifesaver International works alongside public safety agencies to find missing people in a timely manner, preventing injury and, in many cases, death.

The program provides participants with a bracelet that transmits a signal to a receiver, allowing officials to locate a person within 15 to 30 minutes, compared to the average search time of 9 hours without a bracelet.

The Police Department, which has responded to about 130 calls for missing Alzheimer’s patients since 2008, is partnering with the State Trooper Aviation Unit to provide the service. Capt. Kelley Johnson oversees the program locally with the support of Master Police Officers Doug Kemp and James Wimmer. Carden said there are three participants so far and the program has garnered a lot of interest from caregivers in the area.

A large part of getting it started was a $5,000 donation from the Sylacauga High School Future Business Leaders of America organization, which took Project Lifesaver on as its community service project this year. That donation went toward the purchase of the required antennas, bracelets and batteries.

Carden said FBLA’s support has been vital to the program, particularly that of President Makenzie Roberson and sponsor Tyler Laye, and they aren’t done yet. The club is hosting a Project Lifesaver Benefit on Feb. 7. The event, catered by Hickory Street Café, begins at 6:30 p.m. at Harvey’s on Noble. Tickets are $25 each or reserve a table of eight for $150. For ticket information, contact Laye at 256-245-0376 or layet@sylacauga.k12.al.us.

Also, anyone who would like to support the “Facial Hair Fundraiser” can contact Johnson at 256-401-2461 to make a donation.

Families who would like to participate in Project Lifesaver should contact Johnson, Wimmer or Kemp.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

© 2013