Marion K9 Project raises $41,200 for local K9 units
A Marion County organization raised $41,200 to benefit the K9 units at Marion Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Led by local business owner Jill Chitwood, the Marion K9 Project, created by members of BNI’s Marion Business Builders chapter, collected and donated the money to the two law enforcement agencies. Chitwood, owner of Sights Unseen Travel and president of the Marion Business Builders Chapter, said MPD received $20,700 and MCSO received $20,500. Checks were handed out at a press conference last Friday at the sheriff’s office.
“It’s been fantastic,” Chitwood said of the fundraising project. “It’s great to be able to take care of the community that cares for you and protects you. When you’re able to give back, it’s even better to make sure they have what they need so they can keep you safe. even more. Being able to raise the money and the funds that we have made, we have been able to do so much more for both departments and we are delighted with that.”
Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald said the fundraising project sends a positive message to law enforcement officers who serve Marion County residents daily.
“It tells the men and women who serve this community that the community supports them and officers don’t feel that across the country, but they feel it here,” McDonald said. “I think it’s so important for officers who work so hard to know that this community supports them. As far as the K9s go, it allows us to have a K9 unit with two dogs.
“If we were to rely solely on general city funds, it would be very difficult for us to come up with the thousands and thousands of dollars it costs to buy a dog from Europe, bring them here, train them and equip the handler. with the equipment they need to be a successful K9 unit.” And we have a very successful K9 unit in Marion with Lt. (Richard) Wheeler, Lt. (Mark) Elliott and Det. (Colin) Lowe.”
Wheeler is the handler of K9 Joker, a Belgian malinois. Elliott was the manager of the recently retired K9 Six, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois who served the department for almost nine years. Lowe is the handler of K9 Stash, an English Springer Spaniel.
The Marion Police Department is in the process of selecting a new K9 officer to replace Six, who now lives with Elliott and his retired family. Elliott will continue to be part of the MPD K9 unit and is in the process of selecting a new dog to join the department. McDonald said he expects Elliott to start training with the new dog later this month.
“We anticipate, with the help of (Storm Dog Tactical) and with the expertise of Lt. Elliott, that this dog will be on the streets before the end of the year,” McDonald said.
Sheriff Matt Bayles said Project Marion K9’s donation was a “big boost” for the MCSO K9 program.
“We just bought two K9s last year, but we can use the money,” he said. “We can put it in the bank and save it for the next time we need a dog or additional training for our current handlers.”
Bayles said K-9 Deputy Comet works with Deputy Sam Staley and K-9 Viking Deputy works with Deputy John Endicott. Bayles said donations from the Elgin Local School District and the River Valley Local School District helped fund the purchase and training of the K-9 Comet Deputy and the K-9 Viking Deputy.
Bayles said the support MCSO receives from the local community is “incredible” considering the negative attitude so many in society have had towards law enforcement over the past few years.
“Over the last three or four years, it seems people have been so depressed by law enforcement all over the country and that’s reflected in the recruitment of new law enforcement officers,” Bayles said. “But it shows that not everyone is against law enforcement. I think the people of Marion County have been behind law enforcement all along. It will show people who may have being shunned from a career in law enforcement because of the negative things that have been said over the past two years that there are people who support them and support law enforcement. It’s amazing that they were able to collect this amount of money.
Bayles pointed out that local businessman Brad Belcher also donated $13,000 to support the project.
“I think it’s outstanding. It’s above and beyond,” Bayles said.
Chitwood said organizers of the Marion K9 Project plan to continue their fundraising efforts in the future and will try to support other local agencies that help animals.
“Since both departments have sufficient funds at this time, we will be looking at ways to help the (Marion County Dog Pound) and the (Marion Area) Humane Society or anything related to dogs in Marion County. . , possibly the (Kaufman) Dog Park (located at 2375 Harding Highway E.),” she said. “We’ll see if we can help (other agencies) because a new dog won’t be needed (by the police department or sheriff’s office) right away.”
Chitwood said anyone interested in supporting the Marion K9 project can contact her at 740-262-6891 or drop by Marion K9 project page on Facebook.
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