Local police department’s supporting fellow officer in need

No Shave November funds to go towards officer battling pancreatic cancer

Local police departments across South Jersey are coming together this November to support a fellow officer with the Merchantville Police Department.

According to the Gloucester Township Police Department, the officer was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Married with three children, he is preparing for the upcoming health battle with the support of fellow officers across the area.

The typical goal of No-Shave November is to forego shaving to raise awareness for men’s health issues, such as prostate and testicular cancer, as well as men’s suicide. The hair growth aims to initiate a conversation with others about cancer research and education, fundraising and prevention.

Some departments and other organizations also raise No-Shave November funds that are donated to organizations to help fight cancer or support those doing so. The idea is that money saved by not shaving goes to charity.

According to Public Information Officer Jason Gittens, approximately 70 officers in Gloucester Township are taking part in No Shave November to  support the Merchantville officer. The Berlin Borough Police Department nearby is doing the same.

Having participated in No Shave November in past years, officers have donated money to charitable organizations of their choosing. This year, all funds will go toward supporting the Merchantville officer.

“I think this is a great cause to be a part of,” said Lt. Mike Scheer. “Especially at a time like now, where it appears on the outside that you might not have too many allies, you really need to depend on each other and have each other’s backs to try and get through these difficult times.

“It’s good to be able to help a fellow officer out in a time that they might need it.”

According to Scheer, 11 officers in the Berlin department are participating in the fundraising efforts; the department allowed them to forego shaving beginning in October and they will continue through December, tripling the funds typically raised.

The Voorhees Township Police Department is also in discussions to extend its No Shave November policy through the end of the year, according to Chief Louis Bordi. Although the department has not made a decision as to where its December fundraising efforts will be directed, assisting the Merchantville officer has been discussed internally.

“We’re aware of the Merchantville officer fundraising efforts; we just haven’t made a group decision on where the money we raise is going to go yet,” said Bordi. “It sounds like our funds could go there, but we just haven’t been able to confirm that yet.”

While departments across the county raise funds for the officer, residents and other organizations can assist in their efforts by making a donation via Venmo to @FOPGarden-StateLodgeThree, listing Rulli66 as the reason, or by sending a check to FOP Garden State Lodge Three, 871 Engard Avenue in Pennsauken.

Chief Richard Grassia of the Merchantville police said his department has been able to connect with all others in the county since starting the initiative in the middle of October, and is in the process of reaching out to police departments across the state to help.

“We haven’t dealt with anything like this in Merchantville before … Our goal right now is to make sure that any financial burden that comes upon the officer or their family is taken care of,” said Grassia.

“We’re really overwhelmed with the amount of participation we’ve received from fellow departments and residents in our town. It’s very uplifting.”

His department has also started selling wristbands to raise funds. It  recently ordered and received 1,000 wristbands to be sold to residents by officers on patrol, one for $5 and five for $20.