Although bulletproof vests may not represent a typical housewarming gift, they served as a heartwarming one on Monday, April 24, at the Re/Max Town & County office in West Chester.
The real-estate firm presented Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh and Lt. Harry McKinney, who heads the Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit, with a $2,275 check to help purchase vests for the K-9s, three of whom attended the check-presentation ceremony and modeled their new attire.
About 20 employees marveled at the model behavior of the dogs, who included Murphy, accompanied by his partner, Deputy Sheriff Ryan Barr; Nero and his partner, Deputy Sheriff Dan McCole; and Dexter and his partner, Deputy Sheriff Mike Sarro.
The impetus for the gift came from agent Andrea Smith, who had sold a home to Barr. She said when she sought suggestions from him for a thank-you gift, he said that he didn’t need anything. But he wondered if she would be interested in getting something for the K-9 Unit. Smith, whose husband is a police officer, said when she learned that the dogs didn’t have bulletproof vests, she recognized the importance of that goal. After getting enthusiastic encouragement from Alyssa, her 17-year-old daughter, as well as other members of her office, she launched a fundraising effort.
McKinney explained that some other groups had also raised money for the vests, but the $6,300 purchase would not have happened if he hadn’t received a serendipitous phone call from the Atlantic K-9 Vest Fund, a 501c(3) in Newport News, Va. An anonymous donor with a connection to Chester County wanted to purchase K-9 vests and would happily make up the difference. With the date for the check presentation at Re/Max already set, McKinney extended an invitation to the new benefactors.
Brian Cordero and Kevin Gellerma of the Atlantic K-9 Vest Fund attended Monday’s event, adding $3,600 to the cause from a woman who declined to identify herself. The fund was established in February 2016 after K-9 Officer Krijger was killed in Norfolk, Va. – a death that a protective vest would have prevented. Since then, the nonprofit has been working to ensure that K-9s across the country receive protection.
Welsh said she greatly appreciated the support, adding that she holds her four-legged deputies in high esteem. In addition to their loyalty, they have perfected specialties that include tracking, patroling, bomb sniffing, narcotics detection, cadaver location, and arson detection. The unit even has a courthouse comfort dog who offers emotional therapy in high-stress situations, such as child-abuse cases or custody disputes.
The K-9 teams provide service throughout Chester County, Welsh said, frequently assisting 50 police departments in 73 municipalities. They also respond to calls from other counties.
“This is an excellent example of the community working to support a program that benefits public safety for everyone,” said Welsh.