JACKSON TWP. Law enforcement officers throughout the county risk their lives every day while protecting their communities. While others have a sense of safety because of that protection, the risk can cause worry and concern to members of the officers’ families.
There is an organization that has been offering a positive support network for the spouses and families of law enforcement officers for the past four years. The True Blue Community Stark County was organized by Marlene Brink, the wife of Jackson Township Police Chief Mark Brink.
Members of the group include spouses from police departments around the county, including the Stark County Sheriff’s Department. Brink said the group maintains a Facebook page that has 114 members.
"We have a smaller group that meets once a month to plan events and fundraisers." Marlene Brink said. "The idea started when there was a police officer in Canal Fulton shot while on duty back in the late 1990s. Officers and families from Lawrence Township and Canal Fulton came together to talk about the shooting and what happened. I realized I didn’t’ know many of the families and I’ve always wanted to do something to get to know and support other police families."
Brink said two things happened to put her idea of a support group into action. First, her husband became Jackson Township's police chief, which she felt provided her a platform to reach out to families of officers to form a support group. Second, she met Joyce Robinson, whose husband works for the Stark County Sheriff’s Department.
Robinson was hosting a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day event at her church and Brink attended. Robinson said Brink approached her about helping her start a support group.
"Joyce gave me the courage to start talking to people," Brink said. "Now, four years later, I know so many of the families. Before this group, we didn’t know who to call for support if and when a tragedy occurred, now we all have someone we can call."
At the same time, Johanna Coppock, whose husband is a sergeant with the Jackson Township Police Department, was talking to people about forming support group.
"My husband suggested I talk with Chief Brink’s wife and I got involved with this group," Johanna Coppock said. "We support each other and police officers around the county. When the officers are out on extended hours because of a situation, we take them bottled water or provide them food or help in any way we can."
Brittany Musisca, whose husband works for the North Canton Police Department, also joined the group.
"Being part of the group helps because I know I’m not alone in having the feelings and worries about my husband when walks out the door to go to work," she said.
Like Musisca, member Erica Garrett has a husband works for Lawrence Township Police Department.
"You can talk with other people but its hard to understand what’s like to be a police officer family and this group allows us to bond with other police families," she said.
All of the members said that it is nice to have the other members in the group to be there for things such as schedule changes and need to make new arrangements babysitting and other happenings at home. Group members understand and can relate to the needs of police families because they’ve been there and lived it.
The group meets once a month, usually in a conference rooms at one of the police departments. Meetings are business related and the group talks about needs for upcoming events or get togethers. The group hosted a picnic for families for the first time this year.
Rebecca Brown, whose husband works for Lawrence Township Police Department, said that some of the many activities the group hosts include giving gifts to every police officer in the county during National Police Week in May. The gifts include pens and notepads or candy. They give gifts to 23 departments and 800-plus officers in the county.
Group members also cookies to the police departments on Thank an Officer Day in September. They post announcements on their Facebook page on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day in January. Plus, this year they have started attending National Night Out events at the Target stores in Massillon and Jackson Township.
True Blue Community hosts a couple of fundraisers throughout the year, including selling blue T-shirts with the shape of Ohio on the front and the words, "Back the Blue" on the back. It also makes and sells black wreaths with a thin blue line. Those interested in purchasing T-shirts can email firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds go to supporting police officers.
It is also applying for a 501(c) 3 non-profit permit and is looking for corporate sponsors. More than anything else, the group wants spouses and families of police officers in the county to know the group is there for positive support.
Ashley Locy, whose husband works for Perry Township Police Department, said, "We hope to get people to come our meetings, make new connections and make new friends. This is a dynamic we hope will grow. It gives my husband peace of mind to know that there is a network to help support me and our family."
Brink recommends that anyone interested in joining the group visit the Facebook page at True Blue Community of Stark County.