BY SARAH STEPHENS
These are trying times for law enforcement and all First Responders. A job that is never easy even on a good day has changed dramatically in the past months. In other parts of this country law enforcement officers, fire department personnel and medics have been blocked from offering assistance by rioters and protesters. They are cussed, spit on, assaulted and in too many cases killed for just trying to do their jobs.
The growing number of retirees in these fields is concerning, officials said at a prayer event held this morning at the Wetumpka Police Department.
What is more frightening is the question, “How many young people are still considering this line of work?” Who will fill the shoes of the “old heads” that are retiring?
The Wetumpka community felt it was time to stand up and give back to the First Responders who sacrifice daily for their communities. The dedication of a First Responder is based on that desire to help, and certainly not for the money.
Ashley and Nick Carter, along with family, organized a private breakfast for First Responders, and co-hosted the prayer event with the “Alabama Backs the Blue” organization.
More than 80 people attended, including Wetumpka officials, First Responders, Chaplains, residents and multiple media outlets.
Wetumpka Assistant Police Chief Ed Reeves addressed the crowd, saying he was so thankful to see this type of support from the community.
“I have been in law enforcement for 20 years and I have never in my life seen the state of affairs that is going on today,” Reeves said. “If it wasn’t for watching national news, I would not have any idea because we don’t have to deal with that here because of people like you. It means a lot. We have three officers right now going through the academy and they will be going out on the street. This is the kind of world that they have to enter into police work. We didn’t have to deal with that when I went through. There was not all this chaos in the world today. So, it means a lot to me that these younger guys and girls will go through the Academy and take on this role. If it wasn’t for the support of people like you there is no way they could do it and no way I could do it. I want to thank the city, the mayor and the council for the support they give us. We don’t have to worry about these things because we know they have our back and we can do our job and what needs to be done.”
Councilman Greg Jones thanked the supporters of the event, as well as the organizers. “Thank you for coming and thank you for backing the blue.”
“The Facebook group started seven months ago and it has grown to over 400 people on the page,” Jessica Colley, with Alabama Backs the Blue, said. “This is something that is important to our group. Our first project is the billboard and we want to keep it up as long as we can. It will cost $600 a month. As soon as we establish a non-profit, we will have a checking account. But for now we have several other ways of making donations. (Listed below)”
The group also wants to offer financial counseling for First Responders, but will start small and allow it to grow. “First Responders don’t have a lot to work with, so learning manage what they do have is important,” she said. “The name of our group is ‘Alabama Backs the Blue’ which leans toward law enforcement, but the group will support and embrace all First Responders.
“I want this non-profit to help provide in times of need for all First Responders. We want to do scholarships for high schools, but again, start off small and grow it over time,” Colley said.
At the prayer event this morning, Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis told the crowd that when he learned the group wanted to gather for prayer under the flagpole, there was an issue. With the new Wetumpka Police Department still seeing renovations after last year’s tornado, a flagpole had not yet been put into place. With some quick planning, there was a brand new one this morning, with the American flag waving in the breeze. Until proper lighting is in place, the flag will be removed each evening before sunset.
“We thank everyone who turned out here today in support,” Mayor Willis told the crowd. “We support the Blue Line. We support the Red Line. We support all of our first responders. The reason our Fire Department is not here today…we have a Corona case. We have them isolated and they could not be a part of this today. Keep them in your prayers.”
Numerous jeeps were in the parking lot with large flags supporting first responders. Officers bowed their heads during prayers, and mingled with the crowd afterword thanking them for the overwhelming support.
The “Alabama Backs the Blue” organization was giving “Back the Blue” bracelets for every $10 donation. The organization is raising funds to create a billboard in Wetumpka showing support to all First Responders. You can make donations to “Alabama Backs the Blue” in a variety of ways. First, join their page on Facebook.
For donations, they can be made at Venmoe: Alabamabackstheblue
Checks: Make payable to Jessica Colley and label it for Billboard Donation.
Cash: Exact change only please!
Colley is working on creating a non-profit agency for “Alabama Backs the Blue.”
Colley, along with co-host Ashley Carter, said it is so important for more people to step up in these times, and remind the men and women who wear a police or First Responder uniform that the majority supports their efforts, and will stand behind good personnel.
For the future Colley wants to do a truck/jeep parade and we will share more information as that is planned. See more photos of the event below.