City’s finest, heroes for the holidays
WPD takes part in hair-raising fundraising for special causes
Police Chief Thomas F. Oates III has nothing against beards and bushy mustaches – as long as the facial fuzz isn’t covering the jowls of anybody who works for him.
But he made an exception again this year – for a couple of worthy causes.
After Oates turned the other cheek, a sizable contingent of the Woonsocket Police Department’s male officers liberated their inner stubble, raising over $4,000 during a two-month “No Shave November” and “Double Down December” fundraiser.
This year – the fourth for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers fundraiser – the money will be given to the families of Yocdiel “Yodi” Manso, a fourth-grader at Citizens Memorial School who suffers from albinism, and Hunter Benvenuti, the 7-year-old who is now living with an aunt after he was orphaned in the murder-suicide of his parents last fall.
There’s no absolute ban on facial hair in the WPD’s code – officers are allowed to have neatly trimmed mustaches that extend no further than the inner corners of their mouths. That’s more than enough hair for Oates – most of the time.
But it was hard to say no when members of the IBPO Local 404 made a case for helping Yodi and
“I’m a pretty military, spit-and-polish guy,” said Oates. “But I’m glad they take an interest in the local community, so it’s a small compromise to make.”
It’s also fun, says Lt. Mark Cabral, the IBPO’s treasurer. When officers who don’t usually have beards suddenly start sporting lumberjack-worthy bushes, the camaraderie and ribbing among co-workers has a way of growing with the hair.
One lesson from the fundraising exercise: There seems to be no consensus among the thicket-faced officers of the WPD on whether spouses are on board with beards – or overboard. Some can love ‘em, others can leave ‘em’.
“It’s a great morale booster,” says Cabral. “And it’s a way to give back to the community.”
Oates actually had to bend the rules a little longer this year than usual, as the fundraiser originally conceived as No Shave November suddenly seems to have sprouted into a fundraising affair that takes twice as long as it used to, with the addition of Double Down December.
In the end, members of the WPD ended up generating $4,355 – all of which is the result of regular contributions from the officers themselves. No outside donations are solicited, according to Cabral.
Detective Gabriel Koneczny is credited with spearheading the effort. Local 404 of the IBPO – the city’s unit – has raised more than $10,000 for worthy causes since the inception of the fundraiser in 2014.
The $2,000 each for Yodi and Hunt- er will be added to existing fundraisers for those children. Dr. Jeffrey Kenyon, a local optometrist, launched a Christmastime fundraiser for Yodi, targeting the funds for special equipment he needs to surmount vision impairments often associated with albinism. The condition is most obviously characterized by a deficit of skin pigmentation, resulting in a milky complexion and silvery hair.
Hunter’s family had established a gofundme campaign in October that’s since raised nearly $30,000 to offset the cost of custodial care and other expenses for the boy, who was taken in by his aunt, Melissa Glaude.
The balance of the funds the IBPO raised will remain in the union’s continuing charity fund and rolled over for another worthy cause in the future, said Cabral.
A few of the city police officers who participated in the ‘No Shave November’ and ‘Double Down December’ fundraisers, from left, are Officer Tim Greene, Lt. Chris Brooks, Officer Michael Velino, Detective David Wahl, Officer Joseph Brazil, Lt. Bradley Scully and Officer Patrick Roy.
This year – the fourth for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers fundraiser – the money will be given to the families of Yocdiel “Yodi” Manso, right, a fourth-grader at Citizens Memorial School who suffers from albinism, and Hunter Benvenuti, left, the 7-year-old who is now living with an aunt after he was orphaned in the murder-suicide of his parents last fall.