For more than a decade local business owners and community members have gotten together for a golf outing to help supply the local police department with much needed bullet proof vests.
Since that time their goals have expanded to providing other items like defibrillators and flash lights for local officers. Jim Kirk, the owner of is one of the founders of the Vest and Safety fund said the idea has grown in recent years.
On July 2 the fund will host the 14th George Garo Memorial Golf Outing at Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale. Kirk said the idea for the outing and the fund came from having breakfast with a lifelong friend who was also a member of the .
Kirk said like most people he did not realize that officers get their first vest from the department but must buy any others on their own. "I said I'm going to start a vest fund," he said. "It's amazing how it worked out." Talking to friends in the business community as well as people in the township like former Clerk Bruce Davis and Police Chief Ronald Carter, Kirk said the plans came together quickly. "All these guys were like, absolutely it sounds like a great thing."
With the help of funding from grants the fund has been able to supply officers in the local department and Kirk said they have seen the benefits from their efforts. That included back in 1999 when officer Mark Troutman was shot in the line of duty. Kirk said because the vests covered an extra inch on each side from the older versions Troutman was not injured by the bullet. "He had a high laced boot on and it tore his foot right out," he said of the impact.
When Troutman was honored in a ceremony at Town Hall Kirk said he realized just how important the fund's work was. "His wife came up to me crying and said thanks for saving my husband's life," he said. "We made an impact right away."
The incident involving Troutman, Kirk said, is just one reason why they have continued their work for more than a decade with no end in sight. "It's amazing because people come up to me and they're like 'they don't need vests in Howell,'" he said. "I said you never know."
Along with the vests and the fund has helped supply the department with things like clips for ammunition and vests for traffic safety. "It's equipment that isn't covered through the town budget that we can still help with," he said. "Not only does it help the police, but it helps the residents at the same time."
Chief Carter said the department appreciates the support the fund provides. "The community has been a big supporter of the police department for years," he said. "This way no one goes without a vest."
Several other departments and PBA chapters come together for the outing and Kirk said they are always impressed by the group's efforts. "They say I can't believe you do this for your cops. You're not a cop and you don't have a vested interest," he said. "I say I'm a community member. That's my vested interest."
It is their deep ties to the community that Kirk said makes the members want to help their local law enforcement. "All these guys are friends of mine. I know them on a personal level. I grew up with them," he said. "They're in the community and they've been a part of the community."
The community that he knows and loves is what makes Kirk stay involved as much as he does. "It's amazing. I look at people in Howell and how they come together when there's a need and I don't see that in other towns," he said.
There are several ways to take part in the outing from playing in the tournament to various sponsorship opportunities. He said the event also gives the local officers a chance to spend time with members of the community and the people taking part in the day. "The cops are riding around and you can talk to them on a one-on-one basis," he said.
This year there is no specific item for the funds to be raised for, but Kirk said the money will still play a vital role for the department. "There's no specific need but in an ongoing fund like this when the need arises and we say we're going to need $8000 to cover 90 of these we're ready," he said. "There's always something that arises.