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Vest upgrades are Stand T.A.L.L.’s life-protecting gift to city police

Lt. Dale Patton shows an exterior vest, which is fitted for each officer. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

By Pete Zamplas- Stand T.A.L.L donated $3,600 for Hendersonville Police to play it “close to the vest,” so to speak, by better protecting themselves with bullet-proof armor.

The gifts make the new year a much safer and more comfortable one, as these “outer carrier” vests are worn over uniforms — rather than under them like their sweaty predecessors.

The non-profit Sentinel Patriot Club of North Carolina localized Blue Lives Matter by arranging various benefits for law officers within Henderson County, through Stand T.A.L.L. (Thank A Local Lawman©). Ron Kauffman is founder and president. He said he hopes to expand efforts beyond the county.

The collaborative enterprise in its first half-year has already helped three departments. First, Stand T.A.L.L.’s $1,015 donation to the sheriff paid for five people to learn better stress management in October.

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Stand T.A.L.L. V.P. Maureen DiRienzo and Pres. Ron Kauffman flank Hendersonville Police Chief Herbert Blake, in presenting a symbolic check to pay for 15 vests.

Beyond tangible provisions for training and crucial supplies not in budgets, Stand T.A.L.L. arranged perks of free “Coffee for Cops” one week per month starting in October. In January, it was last week in the six local McDonald’s restaurants owned by newly-elected State Sen. Chuck Edwards — all four in Henderson County, and both in Canton in Haywood County. Also, more local businesses are displaying Blue Backer certificates.

Stand T.A.L.L donated $3,600 to Hendersonville police for 15 vests last month, and $345 to Laurel Park Police before Thanksgiving for purchase of 1,000 rounds of ammunition in shooting and tactical skills training. Kauffman said he is reaching out to Fletcher Police, too.

Police chiefs Bobbie Trotter of Laurel Park and Herbert Blake of Hendersonville expressed appreciation for these vital donations.

Blake and Patrol Capt. Bruce Simonds noted that department budgets have been extra tight in recent years, especially in the Great Recession and its aftermath.

Indeed, Kauffman said Stand T.A.L.L. is pledged for “recognizing law enforcement for the wonderful work they do, and through donations they receive support the needs of the local law enforcement departments that may not currently have funds available.”

He found out how much the 15 vests sought would cost, and led fundraising for it that succeeded within a few weeks. “They see our wants and biggest needs, and go out and fill them,” Capt. Simonds said.

Lt. Mike Vesely said, “We’re blessed to have Stand TALL be such a helpful, pro-law enforcement group.”

Next, city police are coordinating with Stand T.A.L.L. to apply for a grant to upgrade more vests. Twenty-five in the department still have older vests. Blake and Simonds did not get new vests themselves, instead dedicating them to those on patrol and called to violent incident calls.


Laurel Park Police Lt. Mike Capps accepts a donation from Stand T.A.L.L board members (L-R) Hale and Sue Meserow, Ron Kauffman and Maureen DiRienzo.

These new protective vests made by Blauer are substantial upgrades over old polyester ones, several police said. The new ones are lightweight and not cumbersome. They are made of a “skin-dry blend” that breathes better, Lt. Vesely said. Kauffman realizes “newer designs allow the bulletproof vests to be easily removed, without having to take off outer shirts or clothing.”

Further, Lt. Dale Patton noted, the vests are snuggly fitted for each officer and thus stylish. And they so closely match uniform colors and texture, that it is not apparent they are worn.

Stand T.A.L.L. upcoming projects include raising money for grants to pay tuition for 16-week Basic Law Enforcement Training at Blue Ridge Community College and other area colleges.

For more on Stand T.A.L.L. and how to help its causes, call 393-0900 or check www.thankacop.org.

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