Sixteen years after its inception, a South Carolina-based organization which raises money for bulletproof vests for law enforcement says its cause is still saving lives and is more important than ever.
Michael Letts, founder of the non-profit In-Vest USA, says the current economic crisis is deteriorating the quality of life in many communities, bringing increased crime and more demands on law enforcement. And he says the bad economy means a nationwide drop in law enforcement funding. Letts says that also means a drop in charitable giving upon which his organization depends, in order to give bulletproof vests to officers.
In-Vest was born in 1993 when Letts’ local Kiwanis Club invited a deputy from the Richland County Sheriff’s Office to speak. Letts says club members were shocked to discover that the officer didn’t have a vest, nor did many other members of his department. Letts says after his charity raised the money for 250 vests for Richland County within two years, he and the organizers tried to shut down the fund raiser but the public outcry told them they needed to continue the effort.
Letts says a recent incident in Houston points out how important the vests are. A police officer survived a shooting during a drug raid after the bullet struck his vest, preventing the officer from being seriously injured. Letts says such incidences are all to common.
Letts, who also serves as a police chaplin, says his organization is now helping to save lives around the world. “We’ve had requests from police departments in Mexico, Germany, Russia, and all over,” says Letts. “We have a two-step process. We purchase tailor-made vests for every officer we raise funds for in the United States. At the same time these vests have to be replaced every five years. Departments donate back to us old vest when they get new vests and we give the old ones to departments around the world which don’t have any vests at all.”
To make a donation or become a sponsor, go to www.In-vest.org.