It’s easy to sense the passion in the voice of Homewood Police Foundation founder Janie Shelswell-White.
“The Homewood Police Foundation stemmed from an idea that we had seen all over the country. We have citizens who really want to help the department and there wasn’t a system in place for them to do that,” Shelswell-White said.
About 14 years ago, Shelswell-White was a concerned resident of Homewood who thought the police force could use a support system. She collaborated with police officer Bob Copus and formed the Homewood Police Foundation.
“This foundation allows local business and organizations to donate to the police department for certain occasions,” Shelswell-White said. “Whether it’s a hurt police officer or, as we’ve had recently, a police officer’s house burned down. We have had so many local merchants donating through the Homewood Police Foundation.”
Copus began his career as a Homewood police officer in 1978 and retired in 2016. He was on the force for 39 years, including 15 years as a patrol officer, rising through the ranks to become deputy chief.
“Being deputy chief gave me the opportunity to look for ways for community outreach and we started many good programs to do that; one of those was the Homewood Police Foundation,” Copus said.
He spoke of how the Homewood Police Foundation has demonstrated its support for the officers in the department in a variety of ways, and how donations always come in when there is a need.
“What I really like about what we’re doing with the Homewood Police Foundation now is that citizens are looking for more ways to contribute and support the police officers who in turn serve their community. It’s a two-way street,” Copus said.
One thing Shelswell-White appreciates is that all the officers and many residents in Homewood know her by name.
“I have lived in Homewood for 23 years and the sense of community here is amazing. The Homewood residents love their police officers, and you don’t see that in a lot of other places,” Shelswell-White said.
The Homewood Police Foundation is a strong support system for the police department that bridges the gap between residents and police officers.
“Having been a police officer for almost 40 years and experiencing the feelings and struggles that law enforcement officers have, this has given me the opportunity to address those needs,” Copus said. “I see this as an opportunity to give back to the police department that was so good to me for so long.”
The results are what matter most to Shelswell-White.
“I never imagined how it would grow, and to see what it’s doing now and that I’m able to be a part of it is the greatest reward,” she said. “To see the difference it’s making for these officers and their families just makes my heart so full.”
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected].