Where everyone else saw an obstacle, Homewood police officer E.J. Dorsey saw an opportunity. His ingenuity and determination helped raise more than $9,000 for a local nonprofit organization.
While the Homewood Police Department normally organizes a fundraiser for Cancer Support Center every October, many staff members at both organizations wondered whether this year would be different. COVID restrictions mean officers have limited contact with community members right now, and masks cover up the fundraiser beards officers often grow each year.
Dorsey decided to leverage everyone’s common need for a mask to give this year’s fundraiser momentum. He recommended the department sell facemasks and donate the proceeds to CSC. Police Chief Bill Alcott agreed to the idea, and HPD bought 1,000 black cloth masks printed with a pink ribbon on the left side.
“Everyone is using masks these days and I thought it would be a great statement to make,” Dorsey said.
While the pink ribbon represents breast cancer awareness — HPD’s annual fundraiser kicks off during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October — CSC assists people diagnosed with any type of cancer.
In a short ceremony on Tuesday, CSC Executive Director Sue Armato received HPD’s donation of $9,100. She said CSC is especially thankful for the money right now.
“It’s been a hard year for fundraising,” Armato said. “In the meantime, demand for our services has quadrupled.”
Extra stress caused by the pandemic has piled on people already living with a cancer diagnosis, Armato said. Donations help CSC provide free services to clients, including individual and group counseling, art and music therapies, and nutritional and body image education.
The police department’s donation came on Giving Tuesday, an annual observance that encourages Americans to make charitable donations.
Armato said HPD’s donation will be doubled or even possibly tripled thanks to Giving Tuesday pledges for donation matching from the Greer Foundation, the Komen Foundation and an anonymous donor.
“It was a great day to bring it in,” Armato said.
In 2019, HPD sold pink “badges” in support of CSC. The year before, it organized a beard-growing competition to raise money for the organization, whose Homewood headquarters sits on Elm Road just across the street from the police department.
This year, officers sold masks to family members and friends, asking them to donate to CSC. Officer John Rasmas sold the most masks, bringing in $1,400. The tactical officer said it was really his wife, Sara, who did all the legwork. It makes sense, given her profession.
“She’s in sales. She sold them at work, to her friends, all over,” Rasmas said. “She has a really big heart.”
Allisa Opyd, Homewood’s events coordinator, helped make the donation hand-off happen. She said they had to rewrite the novelty check three times because last-minute donations kept upping the fundraising total.
“It’s just been phenomenal and so exciting that they were still able to raise so much money right now,” Opyd said. “For E.J. to come up with the idea and for the chief to agree and encourage everyone to do it, it’s just extraordinary what they got done.”