When Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff ‘s Foundation board members received a request for 80 smoke aspirators and 50 pairs of unvented goggles last month, the wish list was fulfilled in under four hours.
The gear, gathered by club leaders with the assistance of several local Doit Center store managers, helped deputies breathe more safely while they coordinated traffic and evacuation efforts as last month’s wind-driven fire consumed homes and a landmark castle in the hills above Malibu.
The aspirators and goggles were put to good use again last weekend when a new blaze erupted in a canyon between Agoura Hills and Malibu, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes over the holiday weekend.
“Without the club’s help we would have to go through a lot of red tape to obtain these supplies through the regular procurement system,” said Dep. Shawn Brownell of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“This is a fantastic organization composed of local citizens to assist deputies and all the people who work at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station,” said Capt. Thomas Martin. “They (Foundation board members) do a wonderful job for us, and they do it at the drop of a hat, which is a nice thing,” he said.
Founded in 2003, the nonprofit foundation develops community support for the 179 people who work at the Malibu/Lost Hills Station in Calabasas. The station serves five cities along with the unincorporated areas of western Los Angeles County.
The club creates a mechanism through which residents, merchants and business owners can get involved to support law enforcement, said the foundations’ president Henry Steenackers. In light of continuing budget cuts, fundraising is the club’s highest priority, he said.
In addition to providing muchneeded supplies during emergencies, funds from the foundation provide resources and assist deputies with daily tasks. Deputies have directly benefitted from club donations and from the club’s ability to provide meals when deputies are working on longrunning tactical operations.
“The foundation also functions as a philanthropic arm of the station and raise money for charities near and dear to the hearts of our personnel, such as the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, 999 for kids and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation,” Martin said.
The club provided funds to buy equipment for volunteer groups such as the Malibu Mountain Rescue Team and the Disaster Communications Service.
The club collects about $75,000 each year through golf tournaments, membership drives and private donations from residents who want to show their appreciation for the services they receive from the sheriff’s department. “A lot of people appreciate what we do, and they want to give back,” said Brownell.
The foundation provided the means to purchase new equipment for the station’s weight and cardio rooms. It paid for portable digital recording devices that are used by deputies to capture conversations during traffic stops. The recordings may be used if a dispute arises later on, said Brownell.
Using donations from several Malibu residents, the club bought a beach team mobile command post and donated funds to a deputy who had been injured in the line of duty.
“We are doing our best to create a better working environment for deputies and to provide the tools they need,” said Barry Myerson, a board member. The goals and successes of the club exemplify the spirit of volunteerism and community involvement in the region, he said.
Few of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s 23 stations have booster clubs or foundations. “This is one station where you feel the love of the community,” Brownell said.
By engaging local citizens to support law enforcement, the foundation is ensuring a better quality of life for the communities. “We’re the catalyst that helps the community come together for a common goal,” said board member Chris Levinson.
“I truly believe that each person has to do what they can to give something back,” said Myerson, adding that he wants to enhance awareness of the group’s efforts in order to increase donations.
Alan Turek, David Stern, Michael Newfield and Steve Rishoff also serve on the foundations’ board of directors. Deputies Brownell and Robert DeSantis represent the department on the advisory board.
For more information about the booster club, visit www.MLHSF.org or call (818) 584-8804.