Some people are born to be law enforcement officers.
Others are not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take an interest in public safety, stay abreast of what is happening in their neighborhoods, and strive to make a difference in their community as do deputies at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO).
For people of the latter inclination, the PCSO hosts the Sheriff’s Advisory Board.
The Sheriff’s Advisory Board is a civic organization comprising Pinellas County residents with a general interest in law enforcement who meet monthly to receive updates on agency functions and programs.
“Understanding what goes on in the sheriff’s office is important,” said Stan Sofer, a five-year Advisory Board member. “There’s a lot more than just ‘policing.’”
At meetings, members view presentations from different agency divisions, are updated on recent community happenings, participate in selecting patrol and detention “Deputy of the Quarter” award recipients, and often, speak directly with Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
“We’re ordinary citizens who do not necessarily work in law enforcement, but we get these briefings from law enforcement about what’s happening in the community and what to look out for,” said recently inducted member Berny Jacques. “We can give feedback, ask questions, and we can take that back to our community, wherever it may be.”
Perhaps the Advisory Board’s flagship is the Community Grants Program, which launched in 2014.
The program, which is accepting applications through March 31st, funds local initiatives that serve Pinellas County youth, provide a service, or fulfill a need.
“These are nonprofit organizations that want to help other individuals, whether it’s women seeking protection from bad relationships, or housing, or taking care of children, or youth programs – mostly to benefit individuals who need help,” Sofer said.
In 2015, the Community Grants Program disbursed $8,000 in varying increments to 10 programs that ranged from afterschool care to mental health education to workforce readiness coaching.
Applicants fill out an extensive application, detailing the program or organization’s purpose and goals, how the grant funds would be spent, how many people would benefit from the funds, etc.
At the deadline, Advisory Board grant program executive board members – Sofer and Jacques included – determine the grants’ amounts and recipients.
Upping the ante this year, the Advisory Board plans to distribute $10,000 in up to $1,000 increments, which will be presented to recipients at a ceremony in May.
“It’s important, because it shows that the sheriff’s office has skin in the game when it comes to community development,” Jacques said. “It shows the sheriff’s office is here to advance those who want to advance themselves.”
If you are interested in applying for a Sheriff’s Advisory Board community grant or becoming an Advisory Board member, contact the PCSO Community Programs Section at 727-582-6621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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