Thousands of law enforcement officers from across the county have been called to help with rescue efforts and flood relief since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Southeast Texas more than a week ago. Many of them responded, helping others while their own homes and property suffered significant loss.
Among those responders were hundreds of sworn officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety, who evacuated thousands of people from flooded homes while many of their own homes were flooded and they had no way of knowing exactly hw bad their losses would be.
Knowing these public servants would need help of their own, Lt. Jimmy Jackson, Vice President of the Department of Public Safety Officers' Association, began to brainstorm how the agency's foundations would respond.
He worked with the DPS Officers' Association and DPS Troopers' Foundation on an initiative to raise funds for DPS families who have either actively helped relief efforts or had their homes affected by Hurricane Harvey.
"I have committees in each of the seven regional areas that DPS covers putting together a list of those sworn officers who have flooded homes," Jackson said. "We're going to organize that list and determine what the needs are and use funds to support the officers affected."
Many of those have homes that were devastated.
The effort has been bolstered by involvement from many civilians, including Grassroots America's Executive Director JoAnn Fleming, who got the call for help and went to work organizing a group of people willing to lend a hand and get fundraising started.
Fleming called on University of Texas Regent and former state Sen. Kevin Eltife, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, Texas Rep. Matt Schaefer, Texas Rep. Cole Hefner, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith and State Senator District 2 Bob Hall of Rockwall to kickstart the effort.
"Extraordinary events call for an extraordinary response," said Texas Rep. Matt Schaefer. "I know my wife and I are happy to give directly to an organization that is going to directly help the men and women in uniform affected by this."
Eltife is no stranger to fundraising for law enforcement. After the July 7, 2016 ambush by a sniper whoopened fire on officers during what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration in Dallas, Eltife started a campaign that raised more than $200,000 to buy every law enforcement officer in Smith County a ballistic vest.
On Wednesday, Eltife presented Jackson with a $2,500 donation to the Texas DPS Troopers Foundation Inc.
"The men and women of the Texas Department of Public Safety have some of the same losses and needs," Eltife said. "Its a no-brainer for the citizens of Texas to come forward to help this organization. We've got to help the people who put their lives on the line every day for us."
Hughes said he had toured parts of the flooded areas in Southeast Texas and had personally talked to DPS troopers from across the state.
"While they're trying to help us, this is a chance for us to help them in a very tangible way," he said.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was unable to attend the news conference due to commitments in the storm-stricken area, according to a news release from Grassroots America.
"I have been traveling in storm effected counties over the past week and have seen our DPS officers working tirelessly since the storm began," the news release reads. "Many of them did not sleep or make it home for days. These brave men and women are there for us in the toughest of times, and we must also be there for them."
Visit youcaring.com/texasdpstroopersfoundationinc501c3-930480 or dpstf.org/donate-now to donate to the Texas DPS Troopers Foundation Inc.
The crowdfunding account had more $5,000 in donations as of Wednesday. That included donations from private residents, a $1,000 donation from theNew Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association and a $250 donation from the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association.