Ontario County Police Benevolent Association campaign to boost morale grows beyond expectations.
Seeing the need for a boost in morale, Donna Schaertl and Bill Wellman, of the Ontario County Police Benevolent Association, made a plan to distribute 50 lawn signs professing support for local law enforcement to anyone in the community who wanted them.
The pair quickly realized that 50 signs would not be enough to satisfy the community’s desire to "Back the Blue" — as the resulting campaign has been named.
And aside from successfully impacting area law enforcement morale, the campaign’s success has led to a surprise profit.
The idea was set in motion a few weeks ago when Wellman, president of OCPBA and an investigator with the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, saw a sign in front of a house that pledged support to members of law enforcement.
The sign was a welcome scene for Wellman. Negative stories involving law enforcement have been cropping up in sections of the U.S. leading to increased scrutiny of police forces nationwide.
“The biggest thing is getting the support for all law enforcement,” said Wellman, a 20-year member of the Sheriff’s Office. “With everything going on in the world, and all the negative press that some of the law enforcement has had throughout the country, we just want to show locally that we support our law enforcement.”
Wellman contacted Schaertl, the event coordinator for OCPBA, and told her about the sign he saw and his desire to offer similar signs through OCPBA.
Schaertl embraced the idea.
“With everything going on in the world, morale has been down within the ranks of all law enforcement,” she said.
Schaertl said she reached out to Ewing Graphics, which donated 50 lawn signs.
From there, through the OCPBA Facebook page, Schaertl displayed the plans for the lawn sign's design and asked the public who would show their support to local law enforcement.
“And wow,” Schaertl said.
Translated: She was hit with an explosion of requests.
The campaign went from a few dozen lawn signs handed out for free to the production of nearly 150. The success led to branching out from just lawn signs to the creation of more than 200 Back the Blue bumper stickers, as well as Back the Blue T-shirts created by Xpress Yourself Screen Printing in Canandaigua.
With the interest in the campaign came the opportunity to raise some money. The resulting fund is aimed at supporting any Ontario County law enforcement officer or his or her family members in times of tragedy or great need. The fund also could be used in the event of any tragic or unusual occurrences in the community that require law enforcement assistance.
OCPBA plans to raise approximately $4,000 for the fund if everything is sold, Schaertl said. Considering the interest in the campaign, she doesn't expect that figure to be a far-fetched goal.
On Sept. 3, Schaertl and Wellman were outside the Lynch Family Clinic in Shortsville, where they handed out pre-ordered Back the Blue items to the public and offered up the merchandise to anybody who wanted to drop by.
It was a fitting date to offer up the products, with Sept. 3 being the two-year anniversary of the death of Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson, who was slain in the line of duty.
One of those who dropped by on Saturday was Geneva resident Jamie Haag, who had her young son in hand. She pointed out that she wanted her son to learn that members of law enforcement are not people to be afraid of.
“Considering the news lately, I just really hope that people start to really see what the police are out there doing for us; people are safe and they protect our little guys, because that’s what’s important,” she said.
Those interested in buying Back the Blue items can do so from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 10 at the West Lake Road Fire Department, at 5214 West Lake Road in Geneva.
Items also will be sold at the Red Jacket High School varsity football team's third-annual Service Bowl fundraiser scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, on their field off Route 21 in Shortsville.
The campaign will close for the year at the OCPBA Coptoberfest from 1-4 p.m. Oct. 1 at Budd Park in Shortsville.
For more information, visit the OCPBA Facebook page.