By Shirley Ruhe
Alexandria, VA – The Alexandria Police Foundation was founded in 2002 to provide health insurance for retiring police K9 dogs. Under Richard and Ginny Obranovich’s leadership since 2012, the foundation has grown to sponsor wide-ranging programs that reach into all parts of our community and enhance the effectiveness of Alexandria police officers.
The Police Foundation supports a youth summer camp and sponsors activities to promote community-oriented policing, the 10-week Community Police Academy, Teen Law Enforcement Academy for kids 14-18 years old, and a soccer program led by school resource officers. Richard and Ginny serve as volunteer executive co-directors making these programs and opportunities into a full-time job.
They say that the biggest challenge when they joined the Alexandria Police Foundation in 2012 was building the Fallen Officers Memorial in front of Alexandria Police Headquarters on Wheeler Avenue. Its purpose was to create a living, breathing tribute honoring 18 fallen officers, beginning with the first constable in 1823. Ginny’s first husband, Corporal Charles W. Hill, is one of the officers honored on the memorial. Hill was killed in the line of duty in March 1989 during efforts to free a teenage hostage.
Space was dedicated for a memorial in front of APD headquarters but no City funds were available for construction. Ginny and Richard jumped in. With the Police Foundation board’s support and working with the same architect and construction company used for the current building, they helped raise over $400,000 to build the memorial. Construction began in 2014; the Memorial was dedicated on March 28, 2015.
Richard calls this their biggest success so far. It was an important tribute to the fallen officers and called attention to the rest of the programs sponsored by the Police Foundation.
Their next project was the Cops, Kids, and K-9s initiative promoting community-oriented police activities to increase understanding and solidify relationships in the community. One of these efforts partners cops with kids to shop for a holiday toy at Target. About 30 low-income children are recommended by officers who know them through working in their communities. The officers take the kids shopping for presents for themselves or a family member.
Richard says that by having contact with the kids at a younger age, the officers have a better rapport with them when they are older. The community policing efforts extend to providing Thanksgiving dinner to 50 needy families. And Ginny says a new effort this year was photos with Santa. “It was a huge success. The kids got two presents and a photo with Santa.”
Another popular effort was supporting the Alexandria Police Youth Camp. This nonprofit established by police officers sends 150 kids to a one-week camp every year. The camp, located in Kilmarnock, is surrounded on three sides by water and has waterskiing, fishing, and crabbing activities. Officers sign up to serve as counselors and chaperones, creating lasting bonds between them and the campers. Ginny notes that the Police Foundation funds 20 kids who can’t afford to pay for camp.
Police Foundation efforts also focus on officers and their families. They recently hosted Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, providing a light lunch for the officers. The foundation assists with college tuition for officers. Ginny points out that it isn’t easy to be a police officer in today’s climate, but Alexandria’s police force is full of dedicated officers. The Police Foundation works to recognize their service.
When the Obranoviches are not percolating new ideas to promote officer performance, morale, and effectiveness and to foster relationships with police officers and the community, Ginny is challenging the all-volunteer board of directors with fundraising goals.
“Karaoke for Cops” is among the most popular fundraising events. In its first year, the police chief had just begun belting out “Footloose” when he declared he couldn’t sing and brought on a surprise guest – Kevin Bacon – to finish his song. Many people from the community stepped up to the mic, including officers and the mayor. Three officers sang, “I Shot the Sheriff.” Tickets were sold to vote for the best voices. The event raised $3,000 the first year and doubled that amount the next.
Another fundraiser is the annual show and reception at the Little Theatre of Alexandria, scheduled this year for September. For $40-$50, you get great food and a show, all of which is donated. The event generally raises $10,000 for foundation programs.
In an overlapping role, Ginny serves as the volunteer coordinator for the Alexandria Police Department. She works with some 30 volunteers who perform various functions such as data entry, translating conversations with non-English speaking citizens, and assisting the Alexandria Police Academy.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Alexandria Police Department. Activities are planned for every month. The foundation is tasked with a reception at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial on July 15. Also on July 15, the department will take photos of active and retired officers at the exact location on Market Square where a photo was taken 100 years ago.
The first Alexandria Police Station was sited on the 100 block of North Fairfax Street (original site of City Hall), and the sign is still on the building.
Ginny and Richard are partners in their Police Foundation mission. Through their efforts to foster community-police relations and enrich the lives of the APD officers, they have added value to all the lives they touch.