GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – Clay County leaders announced Monday that are taking the initiative to protect law enforcement officers, first responders and emergency management teams with the addition of the Signal 35 Fund, which is named after the county’s radio call code for officers who need assistance.
Former Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said the idea stemmed after Clay County leaders met for lunch about a year ago. That conversation led to the development of the not-for-profit initiative that is privately funded with the objective to provide resources to public officials in emergencies.
“The goal of this initiative is to cut through the red tape when a serious incidents occur. We want emergency financial needs faced by Clay County’s public servants to be addressed quickly,” Beseler said.
Beseler said when organizers reached out to community leaders and elected officials about the idea, they all were eager to “step up and help Clay County’s first responders.”
The board of directors for the Signal 35 Fund were introduced with Judson Sapp, CEO of WJ Sapp & Son Railroad Contractor, named as the president and CEO of the initiative.
“When the chair first came to me and told me their visions of what first responders need in Clay County, I was all in,” Sapp said.
Other board members include Beseler, Jim Horne, former state senator and former state commissioner of education, John Horne, attorney and legal advisor, Scotty Taylor, representing the fire and rescue services and Mary Justino, communications director.
Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook also spoke at the conference.
“The mission of the Signal 35 Fund is to be there when a first responder is in need,” Cook said. Board members will help raise funds in the community and will be ready to provide those funds when a loss or unique emergency suddenly hits.”
According to Cook, each year, between 140 to 160 officers lose their lives in the line of duty in the United States, and over 1,000 more are injured while serving their communities.
“Firefighters, paramedics and emergency management personnel face a similar fatality rate nationally, especially during times of the pandemic. In addition to the dangers inherent in our chosen careers. We also face the same unexpected emergencies everyone else does in life, such as house fires, sudden deaths in the family, natural disasters and major health crisis’s ,” Cook said.
Cook provided this example as to how the funds would work to help first responders: Say a deputy is shot in the line of duty, his wife is out of town, and they do not have the money to buy a plane ticket so she can be by his side... that’s when the fund could be put to use.
Leaders also encouraged everyone in the community to get involved.
“Now that the spotlight is shining on the very serious need in our public safety community. We need even more leaders and certain citizens to respond,” Sapp said.
To donate to the fund, visit signal35.org. The goal is to raise $50,000 in 2023.