Marietta attorney Lance LoRusso, general counsel for the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police, has created a nonprofit foundation in Cobb County that he said aims to help first responders and their families in need, as well as fill gaps in the needs of public safety offices.
“There’s always someone struggling with a cancer diagnosis, or their kids are sick, or they get injured and they can’t work part-time jobs that so many of them rely on,” LoRusso said. “In Cobb County police ... we’ve had people whose houses have burned down. We’ve had public safety folks who were affected by the floods in 2009, where they lost everything they had. So that’s the type of relief we’re talking about.”
The Cobb County Public Safety Foundation, a 501(c)(3) which held its first meeting June 25, recently awarded its first two grants to Cobb first responder families in need, said LoRusso, the organization’s CEO.
He said all the money raised to date, an amount he said he would keep private for now, has been from individual donors. But, he said, “we expect to receive funding from corporate entities as well.”
“We are in preliminary stages as to our projections. However, through our partnership with the Cobb Community Foundation, we will be able to keep our overhead very low. We are also fortunate to have a lot of volunteers who believe in our mission,” he said.
LoRusso said it’s always been his goal to help police, fire and emergency medical personnel more than by just providing legal support, and now that vision is becoming reality.
So when Cobb Public Safety Director Mike Register raised the concern that the county had no public safety foundation, LoRusso said he got to work. He said Register offered his assistance, as well as the support of various county public safety departments.
Register said public safety personnel sacrifice too much for the citizens of the county to go without their own support system to catch them when they fall. The Cobb County Public Safety Foundation can act as that support system, he said.
“Our public safety personnel give selfless public service to their community. They give a tremendous service that ensures that the citizens live, work and prosper in a safe environment. And we take it for granted,” Register said. “They impress me on a daily basis, and I am very proud to be one of them.”
On July 18, the foundation announced on Facebook that it had awarded its first $2,000 grant to the wife of Cobb County police Officer Sheldon Long. Long’s wife is a Cobb 911 operator and is battling a chronic disease, according to the Facebook post.
Four days later, another post showed Cobb County SWAT Sgt. Roger Nalls receiving a $2,000 grant from Cobb SWAT Officer Rob Morris. Nalls’ grant was awarded to “alleviate the financial burdens of (his) being away from his family for cancer treatment,” in Texas, according to the post.
Grants are provided based on suggestions from the community, which are then vetted by the office where the potential recipient works, LoRusso said.
“Sometimes cash is appropriate. Sometimes paying someone’s rent for a month may be appropriate. Sometimes it’s reaching out to our network and saying, ‘These people need X, Y or Z,” he said, adding that if a first responder is in an accident and can’t work, they may simply need their lawn mowed.
LoRusso said the nonprofit is governed by a volunteer board, including former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens; Sharon Mason, CEO and president of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce; and Pete Quinones, president and CEO of Metro Atlanta Ambulance, among others.
He said the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, Cobb County Police Department, Cobb County Fire Department, Cobb E911 and offices of the Cobb District Attorney and Solicitor General all provide suggestions and advise the nonprofit. The foundation does not support Marietta city services.
LoRusso said the foundation uses the acronym “REST” to describe its functions:
The “R” represents the relief it provides for Cobb County public safety professionals and their families who are sick, in distress or otherwise in need.
The “E” stands for the foundation’s mission to provide equipment that the public safety offices need in a timely manner, should the government not be able to fill that need or if a purchasing process delays the delivery of the needed equipment.
Register said the foundation has already agreed to purchase four bikes to help the police department increase patrols and community engagement in apartment complexes and shopping centers. LoRusso said the four patrol bikes and vehicle racks needed will cost $10,000.
“S” is for support. LoRusso says the foundation connects public safety professionals to counseling services that can prevent the stress from traumatic experiences on the job from developing into a more serious issue, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Other counseling services include financial and spiritual, he said. In the future, he said he’d also like to explore developing a counseling hotline.
Finally, the “T” is for training. LoRusso said the foundation will work to bring training to Cobb County, as opposed to public safety offices spending money to send personnel outside the county or state.
The foundation has also partnered with the Cobb Community Foundation, which LoRusso said widens the organization’s reach and puts it in front of more potential donors.
The nonprofit operates out of LoRusso’s office at 1827 Powers Ferry Road SE, building 8, suite 200, Atlanta.
For more information or to donate, visit www.ccpsf.org.