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The Soggy Donut Story

On June 7th, 2008 nearly 18 inches of rainfall poured upon the community of Terre Haute, Indiana in a 24 hour period. The experience was nearly awe-inspiring. The torrential downpour doubled in its ferocity as the day wore on – the sun sinking against the murky horizon. The night was lightless without the glow of the sun against the towering storm clouds… and the rain came onward with more intensity.

In the Midwest, we are used to spring floods along our rivers and streams. And with the constant downpour of rain throughout the night, I expected to see minor flooding within the community. I was not prepared for what I awoke to find the next morning. I had never seen anything like this before. Nothing had ever stacked up against the magnitude and wide-sweeping damage of the torrential rains we received in Terre Haute and the adjoining cities.

Had fortune – and a ten foot levee – not been on my side, I would have lost everything. The urgent, and alarming, tone of my wife’s voice in the morning woke me from my slumber. As I followed her to our back porch, the scene of the previous night’s rain lay before me. The landscape was submerged under deep, fast moving water. White caps formed atop water that was nearly five feet in depth and continuing to rise. As news began to filter in, I realized that the damage was not localized to Terre Haute. Parts of Vigo County were literally being washed away.

As police officers, we are ‘wired’ to mentally prepare ourselves for events like these. We know what to expect when we head into work – what has to be done in these times. I was not, however, prepared for how wide-sweeping the damage had been. How many families within our department had lost everything. I was thankful for my own good luck. Yet, concerned for my co-workers… my friends. I watched as it all began to unfold and a look of disbelief was replaced with the horror of the unknown. Relief was not rapidly forthcoming for them. Red Cross, FEMA and insurance companies responded, but were unable to respond quickly for families whom everything had been ripped from. I began my own investigation, seeking other agencies whom could assist police officers in times of disaster. None existed. That is when I decided to act.

My inspiration moment came at Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #85. Amongst the company of close friends, refreshing beverages and the need to act – to provide assistance for our officer’s affected – I decided to create Soggy Donuts Fund. Everyone makes fun of cops for eating donuts! And in a community plagued by flood waters… our donuts would be soggy! It was clever, it was catchy, it fit with my warped sense of humor! With no real sense of where to begin, I began reaching out to local businesses explaining our fund and mission (currently localized to the officer’s affected in the Terre Haute area). The response was amazing. In the face of adversity, local businesses were eager to help.

For their $500 donation, their business’ logo would be placed on the back of t-shirts advertising the Soggy Donut Fund. Not every business responded, but the turnout was overwhelming for a community experiencing a natural disaster. Cops love t-shirts! Especially when the proceeds go to a worthy cause. And I knew I could post sign-up sheets – to purchase shirts – at the Terre Haute Police Department and our local Dispatch Center. Everything was in place for our initial phase. Everything except the actual shirts! I was able to partner with Brent Poole, Owner of Fast Track Apparel (Terre Haute, Indiana), for the initial design and production of our shirts. Brent introduced me to one of his employees – Jon Dacosta – whom helped us design the original logo and organize the business logos on the back of the shirts. In addition, Brent sold the product at cost (he claims ‘at cost’ but I know he sold them below cost to help us get started!) to ensure the maximum amount of money made it to the families in need.

Now, we were beginning to gather momentum.  Other police officers with the Terre Haute Police Department helped in any way I asked. Each contributed a different strength to help the fund. Helping me minimize my weaknesses! Slowly, more and more people began to join in the mission to help create a fund to assist in the rebuilding of these people’s lives. And by Christmas we were able to hand out nearly $6500 to the officers who were affected by the flooding six months prior. Just because the floodwaters were gone, the rebuilding of their lives had not yet ceased! We had become a success and felt like we were just getting warmed up.

We learned that the first 96 hours of a natural disaster are the most critical for law enforcement and the communities they serve. This is when our communities are in the most need of our assistance and stewardship: to prevent looting & theft, provide direction for the lost, direct local & emergency traffic and help other rescue personnel preserve the lives & property of those most affected. In these hours – before the arrival of Red Cross, FEMA or insurance companies – police officers need to know things are going to be okay at a personal level. Allowing them to do their jobs when their minds are dogged with questions about the welfare of their families.

We made the decision to continue the fund even after we were able to help our own police officers in need. Our local Prosecutor helped us become a Non-for-Profit Organization and we decided to take the fund nationwide. We would assist any sworn officer whom finds themselves victims of a natural disaster! We would not replace the need, or take the place, of insurance companies or other disaster relief agencies. Our goal is to get officers and their families into shelter, fed, clothed and begin the process of rebuilding by offering them peace of mind. The Soggy Donut Fund cannot replace sentimental items lost, but we can strive to make it easier in the hours following a natural disaster.

This success, though, was not of my own accomplishments, but a host of people whom support the Soggy Donuts Fund and myself. As the fund has continued to grow, I realized I needed help and could not shoulder the responsibility alone. Todd Haller, Greg Mosbarger, Ryan Adamson and Jason Parker all stepped forward to bring this Heroes Helping Heroes organization to life. I may be the originator of the idea, but when it comes to events, donations or promotion… these guys are the best! In addition to their assistance, I have received support from everyone in the Terre Haute Police Department & the Terre Haute Fire Department. And countless other individuals whom have helped along the way.

This has evolved beyond helping local officers of the Terre Haute community. It has become a fund driven by other officers whom have purchased shirts, every Fraternal Order of Police & organization whom has made a donation and the communities that support us. Every dollar helps the fund grow stronger and stronger. And should another major disaster arise, the Soggy Donuts Fund will help every sworn officer weather the storm and begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

 

-Brad Newman, President

Brad Newman, President