The Loyal Order of the Moose, a storied philanthropic fraternal organization, has made a resurgence in Bradley County, having fronted funds for and sized 11 Bradley County Sheriff’s Office deputies for new ballistic vests.
Tuesday, the Tennessee Moose Association presented the BCSO with the first, custom-made vest for deputy Paul Allen.
“This is a really great day,” Director of Research at the Safe Surfin’ Foundation and active Moose member Ron Porter said. “You have a Sheriff here who is unique and determined, and it was my pleasure to meet him.”
The Order of the Moose, along with the umbrella group Safe Surfin’ Foundation, recognized a need voiced by Sheriff Eric Watson during the annual National Sheriff’s Association convention last summer.
Porter said his organization and the Order of the Moose were able to meet that need.
“We were at the convention in Fort Worth, Texas,” Porter began, “when we heard Sheriff Watson speak on some of his concerns, namely deputies being properly outfitted for duty.”
Porter and Secretary of the Tennessee Moose Association Jim Leitnaker approached Watson with a solution.
“The Safe Surfin’ Foundation, funded by the Moose, hosts a number of unique programs,” Porter explained.
“We do Internet safety, distribute educational materials, provide software and hardware to law enforcement, and … ballistic vests to departments that need them.”
“I was contacted by the BCSO’s Director of Support Services Richard McAllister. We made the determination that this department met the criteria to apply for the vests,” Porter said. “There wasn’t going to be any support for the purchasing of vests from the state or from the county budget.”
“So, we took Watson’s concern before the Tennessee Moose Association, and Jim (Leitnaker) was successful in having them agree to funding the purchase of 11 ballistic vests for the BCSO,” Porter told.
“These vests aren’t the typical; they are tailor-made to fit the deputy,” Porter said.
Porter noted the vests are designed to have the strength and durability to repel certain attacks.
“These vests we present today are a level 3A vests, and are a substantial enough deterrent to save an officer’s life,” Porter explained.
“Additionally, the Kevlar they are constructed from was produced at the Richmond, Va., DuPont plant – American made,” Porter said as he held the vest up. “This is what will save lives.”
President of the Tennessee Moose Association Terry Clarke said, “It is out privilege and honor to present this department with these vests. May you wear them in good health.”
Watson, along with Deputy Allen and County Commissioner Jeff Yarber, took time to share their appreciation.
“Thank you.,” Watson said. “Thank you for what you’ve done here. A few months ago, we realized that 26 officers were working without vests. Today you have really helped us by providing 11 — an investment close to $11,000.”
The Sheriff said the issue of personal protective equipment was an “important topic” for him and BCSO staff.
“It is a proven fact these vests do save lives,” he said.
Deputy Allen, the recipient of the first Moose-donated vest, with his two daughters, personally thanked the Tennessee Moose Association and the Safe Surfin’ Foundation.
“This is the vest that I’ll be wearing everyday. Personally, this is tremendous and greatly appreciated,” Allen said.
Allen explained that most vests, including the ones the BCSO utilizes, have a five-year lifespan. His vest had reached its retirement age.
“I realize that this vest has greatly increased the chances of surviving some type of major incident, and could bring me home someday.”
“I want to thank you for what you’ve done today,” Chairman of the Law Enforcement Committee and County Commissioner Yarber.
“I also thank our Sheriff, who came in here and found a way to help the county and the BCSO save money. He’s innovative. He’s went out and found ways to help support his staff.”
Yarber said, “It’s very easy to be a supporter when you have a Sheriff like this, and it’s very easy to be a supporter when you have individuals and organizations like yourself who come in and see needs, filling gaps that maybe our budget constraints cause us to not have the ability to fill.”
The Tennessee Moose Association lacks a physical presence in Bradley County, but recent efforts with the BCSO are but a precursor to future aspirations.
Clarke, president of the Tennessee Moose Association, in the presentation alluded to an effort to establish a Moose Lodge in the Cleveland area.
“Thank you for the opportunity today,” Clarke said. “We hope that this teaches you more about the Moose, and we’re trying to establish ourselves here in this county. We look forward to working for this community, one that we hope to be a priceless part of in the near future.”
“There are 21 Moose lodges in the state of Tennessee, but there hasn’t been one in southeast Tennessee or Bradley County since the 1980s,” Leitnaker explained in an earlier interview. “For 25 years now, the Order of the Moose has been out servicing the community, and no one has known about it.”
Porter said the process for the Moose to make a comeback in Bradley County has already begun.
“There are nearly 100 Moose members here in the area who are still paying dues, but have no lodge,” Porter expressed. “They want a local lodge, so Jim (Leitnaker) petitioned the International Moose Association, and they activated the process which allows for him to form a team that will go out and examine the possibility of establishing a Moose Service Center here in Cleveland.”
Leitnaker and Porter explained the Loyal Order of the Moose has a lot to give in regards to community service.
In addition to the many philanthropies the Moose organization undertakes, it brings with it a host of partnership groups like the Safe Surfin’ Foundation.
“Our directive is to support the children and the aged in our community,” Leitnaker affirmed. “The Moose International supports the Special Olympics, ‘Mooseheart’ children’s home, the ‘Moosehaven’ senior community, the Safe Surfin’ Foundation … there are a lot of things the Order of the Moose could do in southeast Tennessee if we had a physical presence here,” Porter stated.
“Our first effort in the area was to raise these funds to equip the deputies with vests,” told Porter. “We really want to make an effort to show this community the Moose is here to serve in its fullest capacity.”
One of the Order of the Moose’s most prominent community service programs is Porter’s Safe Surfin’ Foundation — a group that, primarily, provides digital identification kits for children.
“We’d like to bring our identification drive to Bradley County,” Porter conveyed. “We’ve run these ID campaigns all over the nation, and it has been wonderful.”
Porter said the ID process takes digital fingerprints and essential physical information of the children. Then, the information is stored onto a compact disc, making it easier for law enforcement to recognize a child in the event of abduction.
The Safe Surfin’ Foundation is run by former and active law enforcement personnel, and under this leadership the organization has initiated the “Protect the Protector” drive.
“These police officers get attacked every day,” Porter lamented. “Every 53 hours, a man or woman in the service of their community gets killed in the line of duty.”
“We’re wanting to demonstrate to Bradley County that the Loyal Order of the Moose is here to help. We have a variety of groups and programs we could employ in the area, but without a physical presence, we’re limited logistically,” Leitnaker stated.
“There are droves of Moose members in Cleveland, Ooltewah, Reliance and McDonald who are active and want to support their community.”
Article from: Cleveland Daily Banner