Homewood police quadruple beard-based fundraising goal

Officer Steve Brandenburger never thought that his project encouraging colleagues to grow beards would sprout a massive fundraising effort, netting more than $25,000 for a local nonprofit organization. 


  Homewood police officers
  Steve Brandenburger,
  Darren Easter, William Rolle,
  David Lux, A.J. Dennan and
  Vincent Starks all are growing
  beards in a No Shave November
 for Cancer Support
(Photo by Carole

Brandenburger, an investigator at Homewood Police Department, started a No Shave November fundraiser in his workplace after it was approved by Chief Bill Alcott and police administration.


For the fundraiser, police officers could “buy in” for a $50 donation, giving them the privilege of growing a beard and asking them to raise money for Cancer Support Center. Since Homewood police officers are normally not allowed to wear beards at work—though they can have mustaches—the fundraiser’s theme gave them extra incentive.


“My hope was to get 15 or 20 guys on board and to raise $5,000 throughout November,” Brandenburger said. “We had $5,000 on the first day.”


About 35 officers signed up to raise money, including Deputy Chief Denise McGrath whose competitive spirit has her sporting a fake beard around the department, Brandenburger said. They've been collecting donations from their personal networks and tracking their progress on a website village staff helped them set up.


Officer Vincent Starks smiled over his dark black beard and said he’ll be sad when he has to shave it at the end of November.


“I’m a beard person, so I like having the beard. My wife likes it too,” Starks said. “I might cry when I shave it. ‘See you when I retire, buddy.’”


Not such a fan of the face fuzz is officer David Lux, who said he joined the fundraiser for fun and primarily to focus on helping Cancer Support Center. The officers talked about their family members and friends who have fought and are currently battling cancer. Lux said he and his family volunteer for Cancer Support Center because of many personal connections.


“I found out about Cancer Support Center through a relative who went there,” Lux said. “Everyone you know can relate to an experience of a family member or friend having cancer.”


The officers also want to raise awareness of Cancer Support Center so that people know about the breadth of services offered at its Homewood and Mokena locations, including counseling, recreation and physical and mental support. 


Brandenburger said he worked in Homewood for years before learning about Cancer Support Center’s mission, even though the building is across the street from the police station. One night he responded to an alarm there and as he walked through checking the building, he wondered, “What is this place?”


“I went back one day during office hours to learn about what they did,” he said. “And shame on me for not knowing. We come in contact with so many people in the community, this is the kind of thing we can offer a referral for.”


He decided to support the organization by coordinating No Shave November, and so far he is the top fundraiser at more than $2,000. 


As the month wraps up, Brandenburg said they’re working to settle on which officer will be named as having the Best Beard and who will be voted Worst Beard.


“You see guys with big old beards and others who have lawn patches,” he said. “There’s some teasing of those who lack growth.”


Homewood Police Department will present its final donation amount to Cancer Support Center representatives at 1:30 Friday, Nov. 30, at Cancer Support Center, 2028 Elm Road, Homewood. 


On Dec. 1, officers must report for duty clean-shaven, much to Starks’ dismay.


“I would donate $50 a month if I could keep the beard,” he said.



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