After a chance meeting a few years ago, Mary Jane Sexton of New City found a new hero to admire.
His name is Hero – Suffern’s police dog.
Once Sexton and fellow retired teacher and fellow quilter Debbie Calyo of Spring Valley learned about the work of local police K-9 units such as Suffern’s, they decided they needed to do something to show public appreciation for that work and to help support K-9 units in these tough economic times.
Sexton and Calyo, with help from friends and family members, organized a fundraising effort that on Wednesday culminated in the donation of $2,000 to support K-9 units in the police departments in Suffern, Clarkstown, Ramapo, Spring Valley and the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department.
“The police officers and their dogs do an amazing job and an important job,” said Sexton. “This is our way of showing our appreciation and support.”
To raise the money for their donation, Sexton made a queen-size quilt that was raffled off Wednesday. She and Calyo and friends sold raffle tickets at meetings and events throughout Rockland, and they also sold items such as pillowcases and small bags that were all handmade by Calyo.
Of course, the theme of the design for the quilt and the pillowcases and bags was dogs. The quilt depicts the 35 small breeds of the American Kennel Club.
Rockland County Retired Teachers Club members all pitched in to help raise the funds for the dogs, with Marge Hook organizing venues to sell the tickets, and Anna Greenberg also assisting in selling the tickets.
Sexton spent two years working on the quilt, which features colorful pooches on the light blue trimmed quilt. As Sexton presented Sheriff’s Department Capt. William Barbera with the donations at the Sheriff’s Headquarters in New City, the winning raffle ticket was drawn, with the Steve and Linda Roeder of New City winning the quilt.
Rockland County Sheriff James Kralik — who got into the raffle for the quilt at the last minute, buying two books of chances — said the donations will help his department and the other departments with K-9 units to continue functioning. He said the dogs have become key assets for local law enforcement, assisting in searches for lost children, the capture of criminal suspects, searches for explosive devices and in arson investigations.
The motivation for the fundraising effort, Sexton said, was a visit by Suffern Police Officer Lou Venturini and his K-9 partner Hero at a meeting of group of retired teachers. Sexton said she then worked with Sheriff’s Department Police Division Chief Lou Falco to find a way to help support the K-9 units.
Sexton said that she was amazed at the outpouring of support in the community for the K-9 units, with hundreds of dollars of new donations through the raffle — tickets were $1 each — pouring in right up until Wednesday morning.
The four police dogs from the Sheriff’s Department - Gunner, Gibson, Lollie and Scooter — are trained in the areas of accelerant and explosive detection. The Town of Ramapo, Town of Clarkstown, Village of Spring Valley and the Village of Suffern police dogs are all trained in the area of search/tracking.
For Clarkstown, the donation to support their K-9 unit came on the same day as town police officers were upstate picking up a dog that may become the town’s third police dog. That dog is being purchased, police said, through a donation from a local business.
Police dogs from Suffern and the Sheriff’s Department attended Wednesday’s presentation at the Sheriff’s Headquarters, but Clarkstown police dogs OZ and King, and their handlers, could not attend.