Officers in financial crises can turn to fund for help

Police group's money and advice enabled father to care for son

April 05, 1999|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

Larry Kirby was running on empty.

The costs of caring for his son Justin, who has muscular dystrophy, had devastated the family's finances. By late last year, Kirby's job as a traffic officer in Baltimore County was in jeopardy -- he had used up all his time off, and then some, in an effort to lower the $40,000 annual cost of home care for his 11-year-old son.

"Being that I make $40,000 a year, we needed help desperately," Kirby recalled. "And here came Lieutenant Evans and the PAR Fund."

The Police Assistance and Relief Fund of Baltimore County has been helping officers like Kirby since its inception in the late 1980s. Lt. Pete Evans, a police personnel officer and fund liaison, said 35 officers have received help since the fund began.

Private donations are the fund's only source of revenue. Contributors include some officers who have received help in the past and some who designate it on their United Way donation. The largest amounts come from local businesses.

"The PAR Fund is a grant. There's no repayment," Evans said. He and the fund's board of directors hope to accumulate up to $100,000 by next year. The fund has $62,000, which is invested by an accountant on the board, Evans said.

Donations vary from year to year -- and so can payout, Evans said.

"We never know what one year will bring," he said.

Sometimes, giving the money away is difficult because police officers are more accustomed to helping others. Evans said the fund has approached officers faced with staggering family medical bills or funeral expenses, only to be turned down.

"There are some officers who refuse to ask for help -- we've gone out and asked them and they've said no," Evans said.

But the fund has given away nearly $88,000 in 10 years, including almost $11,000 to Kirby and his family. The money went to buy a tub lift so the child, who weighs 140 pounds, could be bathed more easily. It also was spent on a wheelchair lift for the family van and to pay for home care until the family could get county assistance.

"Without them, I would not have a job as a Baltimore County police officer," said Kirby, a 12-year veteran. "They have been a godsend."

Kirby also got less tangible help from the PAR Fund board -- suggestions and ideas for ways to tap into state and county assistance.

The fund's greatest asset is its anonymity, said board member Charles W. Norris, who retired from the county police force in 1992 and works as security chief at Towson Town Center.

"Police officers are very proud. They don't like to tell people they need help," said Norris. "They're so used to being the people that others rely on."

It's important, he said, that officers can go to the fund and keep their needs known to only a handful of people.

"It relieves a lot of the stress on an officer and his family, and allows him to do a job which is stressful already," Norris said.

Pub Date: 4/05/99

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